Ivan Gyaurski, owner of The Crepery,
© Gary Black/News-Miner
Ivan Gyaurski, owner of The Crepery, clears the sidewalk in front of his restaurant on Second Avenue in downtown Fairbanks Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, during a snowstorm that has blanketed Interior Alaska. The winter storm had dumped up to 12 inches of snow across parts of the city and region as of Friday morning.
A winter storm dropped significant snowfall in the Fairbanks area overnight and into Friday morning.

Snow totals for the area include 10 inches at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, 12 inches for upper McGrath Road, 8.3 inches for Trainor Gate Road and the Fort Wainwright area, 11 inches in North Pole, 10 inches in Goldstream, 12 inches at mile 17 of Chena Hot Springs Road and 6.2 inches for Birch Hill. 10.1 inches has fallen in Fox as of 9 a.m.

Rick Thoman, a climate specialist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy tweeted that the highest 24-hour snowfall total for Fairbanks in November over the past century is 14.6 inches in November 1970.

"That could well be broken today," Thoman added.

Comment: And so it was - see report below at the end of this article.



State roadways

Caitlin Frye with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in Fairbanks said the department is pulling on all the resources at their disposal to keep up with snow plowing.

"This is not business as usual for us. This is a big snow event, so we are pulling in a bunch of extra resources," Frye said.

Frye said the department is using maintenance staff members who are not usually out on the roads plowing, adding, "We're using every piece of equipment available out on the roads right now."

The Department of Transportation focuses plowing efforts on higher-speed roadways designated as priority level 1 first. In the Fairbanks area those roads include the Johansen Expressway, Steese Highway and the Richardson and Parks highways.

Frye said that if there is a break in snowfall during the afternoon the department will start to shift focus to priority 2 and 3 roads.

"One of the things we've done to try to improve service to smaller roads is to pull in staff that are not in our maintenance section ... we put them in pickup plows that don't require a CDL (commercial driver's license.)"

Personnel from other areas have also been tapped. Crews from Delta Junction who would normally only plow up to Birch Lake will go farther up the Richardson Highway, for example.


Road priority map

Frye said the department is encouraging people to stay off the roads if possible but that, if people must drive, to remember to give snowplows plenty of room. Do not follow closely behind and do not try to drive around them.

To find out which roads the state maintains and what the priority level for them is, visit dot.alaska.gov/wintermap.

City of Fairbanks

The Fairbanks Police Department is also cautioning people to limit travel if possible.

Most of Fairbanks streets are plowed by the staff of the city's Public Works Department, whose employees are working overtime Friday and Saturday to clean the snowy roads, said city Public Works Director Jeff Jacobson.

First, the department is going through its emergency plowing list, cleaning the streets such as Cushman, Barnette and Illinois Streets, and after that they will get to the neighborhoods. You can find the department's regular plowing schedule and the emergency list at www.fairbanksalaska.us/publicworks.

To tackle the increasing winter maintenance needs, Public Works is hiring additional staff for its day crew Monday and for its night crew in the second half of the next week.

Power outages

Warmer temperatures and heavy snowfall also create a perfect scenario for power outages, which started in the Fairbanks area Thursday night.

More than 30 outages occurred since 11 p.m. all over the Golden Valley Electric Association's service area, affecting about 12,000 customers, said Meadow Bailey, the utility's public relations director. She added that the longest outage happened in North Pole for about eight customers and lasted for six hour.

As of noon Friday, GVEA reported only six outages unresolved that affect over 1,000 customers.

"This changes really fast though," Bailey said. "We'll see more outages throughout the weekend at least."

Most of the outages occur when snowfall weighs down tree branches, causing contact with power lines. In addition, warmer temperatures make the snow wetter and heavier.

As soon as an outage is detected or reported, GVEA crews patrol the lines to find the issue and restore the power as soon as they can. While it's relatively easy to fix the issue, it takes time for crews to patrol.

Another problem occurs when snowfall lands on power lines and then falls down to the ground, causing power lines to bounce and electricity to flicker, Bailey said.

To report a power outage, call 907-452-1151. For monitoring the current outages and the GVEA response to them, go to https://outage.gvea.com/.

Transportation

The borough's MACS Transit and Van Tran services suspended operations at 6 p.m. Friday. There will be no service on Saturday. Additional information is available online at fnsb.us.

Deliveries

Heavy snow and road conditions caused C and D Delivery in Fairbanks to close for the day, which means the regular delivery down the Parks Highway on Monday will not happen. The company regularly picks up freight in the Fairbanks area and delivers packages south along the highway.