First winter snowstorm of the season hits Juneau

Juneau’s first big winter storm in 2021 brought a few inches of snow on Thursday, November 18, 2021 in Juneau, Alaska. Forecasters say temperatures could drop among teens ahead of the weekend. (Photo by Rashah McChesney / KTOO)

It happens every year. Fall abandons us in a way to winter.

Juneau drivers hitting the road Thursday morning got a taste of it as the first major winter storm blew in bringing snow showers and blizzard-like conditions.

“Everyone just needs to slow down. We’ve been on the road 40 miles, slow down, ”said Stan Lee, owner of Excel Towing and Recovery Corporation.

No, not this Stan Lee.

“It’s actually Stanley James Lee Jr.,” he said. “I sign autographs, I don’t write comics anymore, but I’m not dead.”

Every year when Juneau experiences his first big winter storm, Lee knows he’s going to get plenty of calls from people who weren’t quite ready to switch to winter driving and who end up slipping off the roads. He said it’s usually the same places every year too. And he said one of the city’s most dangerous turns is the Juneau Yacht Club.

“Everyone has to slow down between [Marie Drake High School] and the yacht club, ”he said.

Besides “slowing down,” Lee also has a few other tips for Juneau drivers. A big problem is not to drive in this type of weather if you are not comfortable doing it.

“My daughter for example, I haven’t got her studded tires yet and she called and was uncomfortable,” Lee said.

So he went to get her.

“If you are unsure of your driving skills you shouldn’t be on the road,” he said.

He said if you go off the road call the towing company directly. If the police do, Lee said it was more expensive.

Juneau Police Lt. Krag Campbell said he didn’t have the numbers yet, but he knows this type of snowy day tends to lead to more crashes and more road trips.

“Even though people live here, it takes a little while for people to remember ‘OK, it’s winter, I have to drive in winter.’ Maybe people are starting to put their winter tires back on, but there is definitely a time when we see a few more crashes when the snow starts to come in, ”said Campbell.

He said another problematic intersection is the so-called “McNugget Intersection,” the intersection of Glacier Highway and Egan Drive, right next to McDonald’s. Campbell said this area is getting slippery. He says the highway past Fred Meyer towards downtown also sees a lot of crashes because people speed up and lose control.

“Slow down to speeds that are safe and reasonable for the road conditions,” said Campbell. “It won’t always be the speed limit, it could be lower than that. “

Campbell and Lee asked drivers to remember to slow down and change lanes when they see emergency vehicles. It’s the law and that can prevent another crash.

“Yeah, we do roadside stops and the cars always whip you,” Campbell said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Grant Smith said the flurries will continue Thursday evening. Then on Friday, the low pressure center at the origin of this weather should continue and Friday afternoon and Saturday, the sky could clear up. But, another weather system is coming in from the south that could bring another round of winter weather over the weekend and temperatures are expected to drop.

“We’re looking at highs in the 20s on Friday night, we might actually see lows in teens,” Campbell said. “A little further north, Haines, Skagway, they might actually see single digit troughs.”

When that happens, Smith said it’s time for the Juneauites to turn on the taps to keep their pipes from freezing.

But he said the drop in temperature is “just a small blow” and is expected to heat up next week.


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