Alaska Swamped by Historic Snowfall: A ‘Pandemic of Snow’ Engulfs the State

By: Lauren Fokas | Last updated: Feb 12, 2024

The great state of Alaska is known for its gorgeous summers and snow-filled winters. But this year, Alaska has seen so much snow that its capital city of Anchorage may beat its own record. 

With over 100 inches of recorded snowfall already, Anchorage has at least another two months of winter left. And some are saying that while Alaskans can handle their snow, this year feels like a “pandemic of snow.”

Anchorage’s Highest Winter Snowfall Record

According to, the average annual snowfall in Anchorage is 74.5 total inches. The lowest winter on record was in 2014-2015, where the city only got 25.1 inches all season.

Screenshot of data collected by about snowfall in Anchorage, Alaska


However, the highest snowfall was just a few years before, during the 2011-2012 winter, when Anchorage residents saw an incredible 134.5 inches.

Anchorage Just Passed 100 Inches Last Week

But during the last week of January 2024, Anchorage had already passed the 100-inch mark for annual snowfall. And winter is far from over in Anchorage, Alaska. The northernmost state typically experiences snowfall well into March.

Photograph of the Anchorage skyline in the winter

Source: Britannica

So, local residents and weather experts alike are now assuming that this year, Anchorage is likely to break its record for most snowfall in one year. 

Snow Doesn’t Usually Fall When Temperatures Drop

Weather experts have noted that while the sheer amount of snow is certainly shocking, there have been other rare occurrences this winter as well. 

Thermometer displaying freezing temperatures

Source: Freepik

Typically, snow doesn’t fall when temperatures drop far below freezing. But for the first time since 1916, more than an inch of snow fell on Anchorage last week, even though the air was a frigid 2 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Emergency Declaration by Mayor Dave Bronson

The Daily Mail reveals that in response to the crisis, Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson signed an emergency declaration, which is set to remain effective until February 9. 

Mayor of Anchorage wearing a Vortex cap and a snow-dusted jacket stands in front of a "Dogs Not Allowed on Golf Course" sign, with snow-covered trees and a heavily snow-laden environment visible in the background

Source: Mayor Dave Bronson/Facebook

This declaration has enabled the opening of warming facilities for those who are homeless or lack reliable heating, showcasing the city’s efforts to protect its most vulnerable citizens during this challenging time. The emergency measures underscore the seriousness of the situation and the city’s commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of its residents.

Emergency Housing Expansion Amid Snow Crisis

According to The Guardian, Anchorage faces a critical challenge, providing shelter for the homeless during an unprecedented snowfall. The extreme snowfall has prompted urgent action to accommodate those without homes. 

A snowy landscape at night illuminated by street lamps casting an orange glow. Snow-covered trees line the road, which curves gently to the right, leading to a parked vehicle partially obscured by the frost-laden environment

Source: ConfidentialUn/X

The Anchorage assembly convened in a special session, approving a contract to add 50 beds to a newly opened shelter, highlighting the city’s swift response to the escalating crisis.


Tragic Toll and Shelter Solutions

The severity of Anchorage’s housing crisis is underscored by the tragic deaths of four individuals believed to be homeless in November 2023, contributing to a record 49 outdoor deaths in the city for the year, The Guardian reports. 

A snowy day in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, with moderate snowfall covering the street and vehicles. Some cars are parked on the side of the road, while others drive cautiously on the snow-covered street

Source: David Tatum/Unsplash

To address the urgent need for shelter, the city has expanded its capacity, converting a former waste transfer site’s administration building into a shelter with an initial setup of 150 beds. This action is part of Anchorage’s broader strategy to provide temporary housing solutions amid challenging weather conditions.


Residents Exhausted by Snow Overload

The residents of Anchorage, accustomed to harsh winters, are finding this season particularly challenging. The constant need for shoveling, coupled with obstructed streets and sidewalks, has led to widespread fatigue,  The Daily Mail notes.

A sunny day in an Anchorage neighborhood after a heavy snowfall. A large multi-story residential building with snow-covered roofs stands on the left, with a clear road running through the center. Piles of plowed snow line the roadside

Source: MarcEverettHill/X

The situation has been compounded by the implementation of six days of pandemic-era remote learning, adding to the community’s stress and highlighting the impact of extreme weather on education and daily life.


The Struggle of Navigating a Snow-Enveloped City

DuShan Vujnovic, an Anchorage resident originally from Serbia, expressed his struggles with the winter conditions, stating, “I’ve never experienced anything that cold, but here I think I’m mostly annoyed with the snow.” 

scene showing vehicles heavily blanketed in snow, with one car almost entirely covered, revealing only its side mirror and a portion of its windshield. Snowbanks surround the vehicles, and bare tree branches are visible in the foreground

Source: MarioPhoenix24/X

He shared a personal anecdote about the difficulty of locating his white car in the snow after just two days.


Impact on Education

The relentless snow has also affected the education system in Anchorage, with an elementary school closing due to boiler issues and the district resorting to remote learning on six occasions this winter,  according to The Daily Mail

The front view of A.J. Wendler Middle School on a clear winter day, with a blue sky overhead and light snow on the ground

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These disruptions demonstrate the broader impact of the severe weather conditions on the community, affecting not only daily commutes and safety but also the continuity of education for children.


Three Roofs Have Already Collapsed

While Alaskans are certainly used to snowy winters, this much snow in such a short amount of time can be extremely dangerous for residential and commercial structures.

House entirely covered in heavy snowfall

Source: Quora

Because the snow doesn’t melt in between storms, it stacks up on top of roofs around the city. And three roofs of three commercial buildings have already collapsed because of the weight. 


The Anchorage Fire Department Is Encouraging Residents to Clean Their Roofs

The Anchorage Fire Department is working overtime this winter, posting signs around the city to encourage residents to remove the excessive snow from their roofs.

Exterior of the Anchorage Fire Department building

Source: @The Anchorage Fire Department/Facebook

The department explained that snow can weigh up to 30 pounds per square foot, which means that for a 1,500 square foot home, the roof would have 45,000 extra pounds of weight.


Professionals Can Help Those Who Can’t Scale Their Own Roofs

For those living in Anchorage who cannot or don’t want to climb onto their roofs to shovel snow, there are professionals who will come do the job.

Professionals shoveling snow off a roof

Source: iStock

And because one person died last year in Anchorage from a collapsed roof, it’s absolutely worth hiring someone to do the job. 


Anchorage Residents Need to Pay Attention to Signs of Collapse

As well as removing as much snow as possible, the fire department has also been warning home and business owners to be on the lookout for signs of imminent collapse.

Man shoveling snow off his roof

Source: Freepik

Popping, cracking, or any kind of creaking noise could certainly be a sign that the roof is struggling to stay up. But many people don’t know that jammed doors and windows could also mean the weight of the snow is literally pushing the structure down.


Warning to Businesses

The Anchorage Daily News reports that city officials have issued a warning to 1,000 businesses, urging them to vacate their properties until snow is removed from rooftops. 

A view of Anchorage during twilight with snow-covered rooftops in the foreground. The rooftops feature various ventilation systems and satellite dishes, with a backdrop of a high-rise building on the left

Source: Visit Anchorage/Facebook

This precautionary measure follows the collapse of 6 roofs under the weight of the snow this winter, highlighting the potential danger to both property and human life. 


The Weight of Snow: A Tangible Threat

The notice from city officials provided a striking example to illustrate the threat, stating that a home with 1,500 square feet of roof could be supporting about 45,000 pounds of snow. 

A close-up of a yellow snow removal machine's front-end loader, covered in snow, actively plowing through a deep pile of snow. The machine's tires and shovel are caked with wet snow

Source: Mayor Dave Bronson/Facebook

This amount of weight, equivalent to “about 8 full-size light-duty pickup trucks,” showcases the severe risk posed by accumulated snow on structures, underscoring the urgency of snow removal efforts.


The Human Cost of Extreme Weather

The extreme weather has not only caused inconvenience and economic impact but has also had a tragic human cost.

A residential alley is blanketed in deep snow during dusk, with the shapes of cars and trash bins barely discernible under the thick white layer. The snow engulfs everything

Source: Mom80807103/X

The Anchorage Daily News reports that in 2023, 16 buildings experienced roof collapses, one of which resulted in a fatality.


“It's a Pandemic of Snow”

Aside from the danger of snow accumulating on roofs around the city, this much snow in this short of time is also affecting residents’ abilities to get where they need to go. 

Shovel left behind in the snow

Source: Freepik

In fact, local elementary school teacher Tamera Flores, likened the extensive snowfall to the COVID-19 lockdown, saying, “It’s a pandemic of snow.”


All of Alaska Is Dealing with an Especially Challenging Winter

While Anchorage is making headlines for potentially breaking its own record, it’s not the only city in the state dealing with an especially tough winter. 

Mike Dunleavy, Governor of Alaska

Source: @GovDunleavy/Facebook

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy was delayed when heading to Juneau last week to deliver his State of the State address, thanks to a windstorm where gusts were moving as quickly as 105 mph. And Juneau is likely to get more snowfall this January than it has since 2009.


Snowfall Not Limited to Anchorage

The snowfall crisis extends beyond Anchorage, with the capital city of Juneau recording 69.5 inches of snow so far this month, The Daily Mail reveals

A tranquil main street scene in a small Alaskan town during winter. Snow blankets the ground and vehicles parked along the roadside

Source: MrWillis907/X

Additionally, temperatures in Fairbanks have plummeted to -40F or colder, affecting other communities across Alaska. These conditions illustrate the widespread nature of the extreme weather impacting the state, affecting multiple cities and towns with significant snowfall and frigid temperatures.


Kotzebue's Heating Crisis Amid Extreme Cold

In Kotzebue, the extreme cold has led to heating fuel thickening and becoming unusable, causing heating systems and stoves to stop working. 

A three-story apartment building with red and beige exterior walls is viewed across a snowy foreground, with snowflakes visibly falling in the scene. Snow accumulation can be seen on the rooftops of the foreground structures

Source: tammaq13/X

This situation has placed residents in dire circumstances, as reported by the Anchorage Daily News


Community Resilience in the Face of Adversity

The story of Andrea Henry and her family in Kotzebue, who resorted to using a wood stove for warmth after their heating failed, exemplifies the resilience of Alaskan communities.

A close-up of vibrant and dynamic orange flames consuming wooden planks in a fireplace

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Faced with freezing temperatures,  the Anchorage Daily News reveals that they managed to keep warm and prevent their water lines from freezing, demonstrating the strength and adaptability of individuals and families in overcoming the harsh conditions brought on by the winter.


Some Anchorage Residents Are Loving the Snow

There’s no doubt that this kind of snowfall can be both dangerous and frustrating, but many Anchorage residents are having a great time nonetheless.

20-foot snowman in a front yard

Source: @GlobalNews/YouTube

Some are curled up by the fire, others are sledding local hills, kids are having snowball fights, and one family even built a 20-foot-tall snowman in the yard.


“Alaskans Are Built Different”

Alaska is certainly seeing heavy snowfall this year, but as Anchorage resident Damon Fitts says, “This winter is definitely rough. But us Alaskans are definitely built different.”

A mountain range stands above downtown Anchorage at sunrise after the city received overnight snow

Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Fitts continued, “We can handle 100 inches of snow and still make it to work on time. We can put up with a lot.” And it seems they may have to if the next couple of months are anything like the last few!