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Russian tanker en route to Nome Frozen sea lanes stopped a fuel tanker from delivering gasoline. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Charly Hengen)

Alaska’s Winter Woes

Alaska is pounded by one of the most severe winters in decades

By Laura Modigliani | null null , null
<p> PHOTO: Heavy snows have walled in homes in Valdez, Alaska. (Marc <br />Lester / The Anchorage Daily News / <br />AP Images) </p><p> MAP: This winter, snowstorms have battered towns all over Alaska. <br />(Jim McMahon) </p>

PHOTO: Heavy snows have walled in homes in Valdez, Alaska. (Marc
Lester / The Anchorage Daily News /
AP Images)

MAP: This winter, snowstorms have battered towns all over Alaska.
(Jim McMahon)

Winter is just getting started in most U.S. states. But Alaska is really feeling the cold, having already been battered by major, record-breaking snowstorms.

After a huge blizzard on January 9, a total of 81.3 inches of snow has fallen this winter in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. That’s about double the amount the city usually gets by this time of year—and it’s more than in any year on record.

The coastal town of Valdez has seen 318 inches of snow so far this winter. The community of Cordova has already been buried under 172 inches—almost twice the amount it usually gets in an entire winter. This small fishing town has had so much snow that there aren’t enough shovels to clear it.

“The scary part is we still have three more months to go,” Valdez resident Kathryn Hawkins told the Associated Press last week. Eight-foot-high walls of snow line both sides of Hawkins’s driveway—enough snow for her 12-year-old son to be able to slide off the roof into the yard.


The 3,500 residents of Nome, on Alaska’s western coast, have another icy problem on their hands. They’re still recovering from a severe storm in November that froze sea-shipping lanes, preventing a much-needed delivery of fuel. Nome normally gets its fuel—needed to heat homes and power cars—by barge. The city was supposed to receive its final winter shipment in November.

Emergency efforts by the U.S. Coast Guard helped a 370-foot fuel tanker reach Nome last weekend.

The tanker had left Russia in mid-December. It slowly made the 5,000-mile journey across the frigid Bering Sea. A Coast Guard icebreaker helped cut a path through the thick ice. If the tanker hadn’t made its delivery, Nome would have run out of fuel by March or April—long before the next delivery would have been possible.

Two parallel hoses, stretched between the tanker and a long pipeline, have begun pumping 1.3 million gallons of fuel into storage tanks near Nome’s harbor. The transfer of fuel is running smoothly, bringing some much-needed relief to this winter-weary city.

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