Winter snowfall record set in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Sun Apr 8, 2012 7:08pm EDT

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - A storm dumped more than 4 inches of snow on Anchorage over the weekend, bringing the total snowfall for Alaska's largest city to a record 11.2 feet for the year, the National Weather Service said on Sunday.

The official snow tally was 134.5 inches, 1.9 inches above the previous record set in the winter of 1954-1955, the weather service said.

The average for winter snowfall in Anchorage over the past 30 years is 74.5 inches, the agency said.

The abundant snow has strained the city's street-clearing budget. From October through March, the city spent $11.9 million on snow removal, compared to $8.1 million over the same period last winter, according to a municipal report.

With many snow storage sites full, the Anchorage Assembly created temporary storage areas in late February. Some of the snow piles are expected to last through the summer.

Several roofs in Anchorage have caved in under the weight of accumulated snow, including the roof of a church auditorium.

There are similar concerns about roofs in the towns of Valdez and Cordova, where the snowpack is much higher than normal.

The National Weather Service warned that flooding is a possibility once the snow melts. And avalanches can occur as warmer weather arrives and loosens accumulated snow and ice.

A 32-year-old woman was critically injured on Friday when a large chunk of ice tumbled down a slope and crushed her pickup truck on the Seward Highway, which carries traffic south from Anchorage.

Winter sports enthusiasts have reveled in the record snowfall.

Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, the state's largest ski area, is enjoying a banner season. And Chugach Powder Guides, a Girdwood company that runs helicopter tours, is almost completely booked.

Alaska's plentiful snow contrasts with poor skiing conditions in the lower 48 states and in much of Europe, said Chris Owens, who helps run the tour operator.

"For the most part, we pretty much have all of the snow on the planet right now," Owens said. "We have waiting lists for our waiting lists."

(Editing by Andrew Stern and Stacey Joyce)

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