Snow and ice were seen outside the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences in Ketchikan on Monday after rain fell on packed snow. School was canceled on Monday in Ketchikan. (Eric Stone/KRBD)

Schools, businesses and government offices across the southern panhandle were closed Monday after a combination of snow and rain made travel difficult.


Ketchikan residents reported parked cars spontaneously sliding down hills as heavy rains turned snow to ice. Ossie Knowlton says his car slid four or five feet down his sloped driveway overnight.

“I walked down to the end of the garage, and I saw my car was halfway out into Lincoln Street, almost completely blocking the road,” he said Monday. “And I thought, What on Earth? There’s just no way that it slid all the way down there.”

He said he wasn’t going into work because his office was flooded.

And he wasn’t the only one who woke up with his car not quite where he left it.

“My husband yesterday went outside to clear some drains and noticed that his car had slid back, I don’t know, like, three or four feet,” said Donna Boss, who lives nearby.

She says the Power Wagon’s parking brake didn’t help.

“If it’s icy or rainy, I usually put on my emergency brake, because I thought like it could possibly happen — but I didn’t think it actually did happen. And then I noticed too, my neighbor — whose driveway is even less steep than mine — his car had slid yesterday, also. It was pretty insane,” Boss said.

The slippery conditions came after 2.58 inches of rain, a daily record for Jan. 9, fell on top of unusually heavy snow, Kimberly Vaughan of the National Weather Service told KRBD during a morning interview.

“And unfortunately, now the hazards change from snow accumulation to just what the snow does when it reacts with the rain that we’re now getting — which is to turn into ice,” Vaughan said.

The wet weather wrought havoc all over the region. In Ketchikan, school officials canceled class Monday due to “treacherous, icy conditions” on roads and school grounds. City and borough offices were also closed, and some businesses said they were closing up shop. State offices, including Ketchikan’s public health clinic, followed suit.

Roads in town were relatively clear by Monday afternoon, though ice remained on many sidewalks and driveways.

On Prince of Wales Island, the state Department of Transportation has urged residents to stay home as crews worked to clear and sand roads.

Standing water had been reported between Thorne Bay and Kasaan, but DOT said in a statement that crews with the Organized Village of Kasaan had been able to clear outlets and drain the flooded roadway. Classes at the Thorne Bay School were canceled Monday.

Officials in the Prince of Wales Island community of Klawock urged residents to conserve water for at least 24 hours after leaks and blockages drained much of the community’s drinking water supply. But the community’s school held in-person classes, and the airport is ice-free and operational.

Roads in Klawock and the nearby community of Craig were in “pretty good shape,” according to state transportation officials. And classes in Craig are virtual this week because of an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Metlakatla’s Walden Point Road, which connects the town with the community’s ferry terminal, was closed Monday morning, according to local police. It reopened later that afternoon.

A Monday morning ferry run to Ketchikan was canceled. Annette Island School District classes are also in distance learning this week because of COVID-19.

Relief from the icy mess is in store for Ketchikan and the southern panhandle, says the Weather Service’s Kimberly Vaughan.

“You’re seeing high temperatures during the day getting into the 40s. So that should help with that melting of the snow and ice over this next week, because we have no temperatures below freezing forecast for the next week,” Vaughan said.

In the meantime, it’s a good idea to wear ice cleats when venturing outdoors.