Up to 10-and-a-half inches of snow – maybe more, maybe less, depending on where you measure – fell on Ketchikan Tuesday. That’s a big snow day for Alaska’s First City, where there tends to be lots of rain but not too much of the white stuff.
While city and state crews worked to clear the big dump of snow from roadways, the borough’s public transit system adjusted bus routes to avoid some of the community’s steep hills; law enforcement asked people to avoid driving unless it was absolutely necessary; the local UAS campus and Head Start program chose to cancel classes; and lots of people just stayed home if they could.
But, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District did not cancel classes today. That was a surprise to some parents. District Human Resources Director Rick Rafter said the decision was made before the snow really started to come down.
“The decision making process starts very early in the morning – around 5 o’clock, if not a little before, with our maintenance crew that gets out to start plowing,” he said. “And at 5, 5:15, 5:30, I was checking in with them. At that time, we were getting a light snow and it didn’t appear we were going to have problems.”
Rafter, who is filling in as acting superintendent while Superintendent Robert Boyle is out of town, said he then checked in at about 6 a.m. with the bus company, and the buses were all chained up and ready to go. So, Rafter made the call to not cancel school.
“And then between the time they left the bus garage to start picking up kids, which they were doing, the snow rolled in,” he said. “By that time, we already had buses out, they were already picking up kids, so we decided we would continue with the bus routes. It’s pretty dangerous to just all of a sudden stop the bus routes without notification.”
Rafter said the forecast called for the weather to clear somewhat by mid-day, which means school could continue through the regular dismissal time. That should give crews time to get the roads into better condition for the bus rides home.
Rafter said a lot of parents did choose to keep their kids home.
“We have light attendance in all the buildings; we have some kids missing. (But) we’re not going to worry about that attendance,” he said.
Jenn Tucker is among the parents who decided her kids would not go to school on Tuesday. They live in a neighborhood partway up Deer Mountain, at the top of one of the steepest roads in Ketchikan. The bus definitely wasn’t going to make it up that hill, she said, and Tucker had initially planned to drive her three children to school.
“I thought I might be able to get them to school,” she said. “(But), if it continued to snow, I wasn’t sure I could get them home from school. And, the hill is so steep, it’s actually treacherous to even walk up it when it gets really bad.
So, Tucker declared a snow day and they all stayed home. It also was her middle child’s 12th birthday, so the family celebrated with a big waffle breakfast, and then Tucker sent the kids out to play in the snow.
“And then later on, because it’s her birthday, she has decreed we will have a Star Wars marathon,” Tucker said.
Tucker measured the snow on her deck, and at about 9:15 a.m., before the snow stopped, it had measured 10.5 inches. That might be more than other parts of town, but she said it’s an accurate measurement of how much had fallen at that elevation.
“Because I’m up a lot higher than town, I generally get more snow, but the deck is usually the same as the yard,” she said.
The forecast for Tuesday called for up to 10 inches of snow, lasting through about noon. The snowfall did taper off late morning, and by noon there were some glimpses of sunshine.
More snow is expected to fall in Ketchikan and surrounding areas over the next few days, though, according to the National Weather Service office in Juneau. So, there may be more opportunities this week for waffles and Star Wars at the Tucker household.