Frozen drains and melting snow and rain blamed for slushy mess
Several inches of slush – combinations of fresh and already fallen snow mixed with rain – conspired to fill Valdez streets, parking lots, shoes and boots with wet cold last Sunday.
“We set a new record for rain,” for December 4, said Steve Erickson of the National Weather Service in Valdez.
Erickson reports 2.8 inches of precipitation fell on Valdez Sunday.
“That’s when we add the rain and snow together,” he said of the 2.8 inches of water from the sky.
“The precipitation actually doubled our old record,” Erickson said. The old record for December 4 was 1.37 inches recorded in 1984.
It wasn’t just the rain and snow – often referred to as winter mix – that caused the street flooding. Warm temperatures went to work on melting the 86 or so inches of snow that had fallen in Valdez since October.
It created a mushy, cold, wet mess that stalled at least a few vehicles on city and state maintained streets that appeared overwhelmed by frozen drain lines and lack of snow removal.
“They (street drains) were froze because of all the snow we had,” Larry Weaver, the city’s public works director said in a telephone interview Monday.
He said crews were dispatched to unfreeze drains, but had a hard time keeping up with the rising waters.
“It is what it is,” Weaver said, mushy snow conditions are hard to keep up with when it comes to drainage. “It slows down the flow.”
DOT maintained roadways in town – namely Egan, Meals and Hazelet Streets – did not fare any better.
“That’s kind of normal for this time of year,” Robert Dunning, DOT manager in Valdez, said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Valdez has recorded 87.6 inches of snow this season.
“That is almost two feet above average,” Erickson said.
It is more than 60 inches more snow than Valdez recorded last year at this time.
He himself came to Valdez last April from a mountainous area in Arizona about twenty miles north of the Mexico border. He said he was warned and prepared for lots of snow. But the winter rain on snow was an unwelcome phenomenon.
Jymi Smith, the lone cab driver on duty in Valdez Sunday night was less than pleased.
She reports numerous troubles navigating the city’s clogged roads that evening and mechanical troubles due to snow build up on the undercarriage of her late model minivan.
“Where were they?” she asked rhetorically while recounting her Sunday driving experiences.