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'Significant' snow in forecast for Fairbanks, Interior Alaska

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Posted: Friday, February 25, 2011 1:20 pm | Updated: 1:54 pm, Wed Dec 26, 2012.

Travel advisories: High winds, heavy snow close Steese; advisory issued for Parks Highway

Updated: 11:45 p.m.

FAIRBANKS — Don’t put away those shovels and snow blowers yet.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Thursday for 6 to 10 inches of snow in Fairbanks by noon today.

“We’ll probably be on the low end of that,” meteorologist Scott Berg at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said. “The heaviest snow is going to be to the north of us.”

The snow was expected to start at around midnight last night and continue through most of today. The heaviest snow was expected from midnight to noon.

A “very, very strong” low pressure system that pounded the west coast of Alaska with wind gusts up to 70 mph on Wednesday and Thursday was moving north over the top of high pressure that was sitting over the Interior, Berg said.

“As it works its way north it’s going to flatten out that high pressure over us and we’ll get more of a west-east flow across the northern half of the state,” he said. “When that happens it will pump some moisture in here and it’s got some cold air behind it.”

The result will be “some significant snowfall,” Berg said. High winds could cause drifting at higher elevations, too. Wind gusts up to 30 mph are expected above treeline.

It will be the second storm to bury Fairbanks in five days. A storm that dumped 18.5 inches of snow on Fairbanks during Sunday and Monday ranked as the sixth-greatest two-day snowfall in more than 100 years in Alaska’s second-largest city.

“This has been a very long week,” Berg said.

The North Slope and Brooks Range will receive the brunt of the storm.

“We’re looking for basically whiteout conditions across the North Slope tonight and tomorrow,” Berg said. “The south slopes of the Brooks Range are going to get pounded. Some of those places could see 2 feet of snow or more.”

Bettles, 250 miles north of Fairbanks, received

8 inches of snow in four hours Wednesday, Berg said.

“The potential for two or three times that much is possible with this storm,” he said.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Meadow Bailey said the new storm will definitely tax DOT crews working to get roads cleared after the big storm earlier this week.

“We’re gearing up expecting that we’ll have to have to bring in reinforcements,” she said. “We’re planning to rent extra equipment (Friday).”

Crews have already been struggling to keep the Dalton Highway open and more snow will only hamper those efforts, Bailey said. The Dalton Highway has been closed several times this week as a result of the storm.

“We haven’t had to close that road for years and we’ve closed it four times in the last week,” she said. “Once we get everything plowed out it drifts back in.”

While the road was not officially closed Thursday, Bailey said DOT was advising people not to drive it.

So far this month,

25.1 inches of snow has been recorded at Fairbanks International Airport. That compares with the monthly average of 6.6 inches, Berg said.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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