It has been called "Valdez Snowmageddon" by the media, and one resident of Valdez, Alaska discusses the record-setting snow in the town she has lived in for almost two decades.
KTVA11 coverage of the snowfall in the Prince William Sound city describes it as "Valdez Snowmageddon" and reports that "As of Jan. 5th, 2012 – 246.6’’ of snow has fallen in Valdez. That’s over 20 feet."
The snowstorms continued and, as reported by Anchorage Daily News, "Valdez usually has 151.8 inches of snow by Jan. 12, according to the National Weather Service. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, Valdez had seen a total of nearly 321.8 inches this season. That's more than 14 feet above normal."
Suzanne Hickman told me that she is "entering [her] 16th year" living in Alaksa, "all in Valdez." Referring to a character in the Charles Dickens' novel "Great Expectations," Hickman said she "came up for a summer...never looked back. Literally pulled a Mrs. Havesham."
Digging out the boats on and off the water. Valdez, Alaska. Jan. 13, 2012
When asked if she had seen this much snow in Valdez before, Hickman replied;
Not really, but there have been spectacular "dumps" (big short- spanned torrents of snow). The old timers here are all puzzled by how EARLY these dumps are. It usually hits in February, and, no, they think THIS is pretty bad. Worst since '89 for them.
I sought an interview with Hickman after seeing a picture posted on her Facebook page that showed her standing by an enormous ice cycle.
Courtesy of Suzanne Hickman
Suzanne Hickman standing by a huge ice cycle hanging from her residence. Valdez, Alaska.
Hickman was asked what she thought when she saw that huge ice cycle hanging from her house. "It's on the back of the house so I wouldn't have seen it, but a friend insisted I go check it out," said Hickman. "Wow. I've seen many MULTIPLE cycles in groupings that were bigger, but this one is the biggest single I've seen. It got warm yesterday and today so it may be growing as it refreezes tonight. Next few days are supposed to be REALLY cold (single digits) so it may live a long life after all." Hickman clarified that the house belongs to her landlord and friend and that she rents the lower level.
Hickman added, "By the way, we covered the windows near it...just in case."
Among Hickman's posts about the weather were statements about local businesses remaining open. I asked Hickman to talk about which businesses are open and how they are managing to do so in the midst of these snowstorms.
Hickman said, "Most businesses that are open for the winter stayed open. This town KNOWS snow. But most of us stay in thru the thick of it (if we can). All employers understand. Any place that has a roof load that is iffy will close. Several have until they are shoveled. The boats in the harbor are priority. They triage the situation."
Courtesy of Suzanne Hickman
Many businesses remain open in the midst of record-breaking snowfall. Valdez, Alaska. January 2012.
The "roof load" that Hickman refers to has impacted local schools. The Anchorage Daily News quotes Valdez district superintendent Jacob Jensen as saying, "The record-breaking winter pushed the local elementary and high school past their legal roof snow-load limits of 90 pounds per square foot." On Jan. 13, the schools were forced to close "for the first time in recent memory" due to fears of roofs collapsing.
In terms of what's in store weather-wise for Valdez residents in the next few days, Hickman said, "We are still having a little snow and rain, but it's gonna get cold (as the jet [stream] dips south) and everything is gonna freeze solid. Then single digits for a few days."
Similarly, KTVA11 reported that, for Valdez residents, "more snow is in store for you this weekend."