Monday, November 12, 2007

Anchorage Snow Breaks Record

Philip Walters retrieves a violin from his overturned Jeep next to northbound lanes of the Glenn Highway near the Fort Richardson overpass Nov. 11, 2007. Walters had been on his way home after a church musical event.
146 ACCIDENTS SUNDAY: And that's just between midnight and 9 p.m.

Published: November 12, 2007

A record snowfall turned Anchorage streets and highways into a giant bumper-car track Sunday.

From midnight until 9 p.m., police recorded 146 accidents and 86 ditch-divers.

"There's vehicles in distress everywhere," Anchorage Police Department dispatch supervisor Kathy Johnston said at 1:30 p.m.

Only 16 of the accidents involved injuries.

"Almost every single one is a fender-bender," Johnston said.

And a couple of mind-benders. As the heavy snow piled up and cars and trucks careened off the road or into each other, a number of people nonetheless headed to higher elevations -- and even worse conditions.

"People actually are going up to Flattop," Johnston said. "We've got 10 or 12 cars stuck up there right now. They'll get help when we can get someone up there."

At 4 p.m., the National Weather Service reported a single-day snowfall of 5 inches, two more than the old record of 3 inches for Nov. 11 set in 1944.

And the snow was still coming down.

Philip Walters was among those whose day was ruined by slick roads.

A band teacher at Bartlett High, Walters was returning to his Eagle River home after playing violin at a service at Trinity Presbyterian Church on Huffman Road.

He made it all the way to the Fort Richardson overpass before disaster struck.

He saw a car ahead of him spin out of control and off the Glenn Highway and he slowed down, as did others between him and the errant car.

"It was ridiculous," he said. "I just tapped my brakes and I was off the road."

Off the road and upside down, his Jeep Grand Cherokee coming to rest on its roof. Walters grabbed his violin, unbuckled his seat belt and crawled out of a back-seat door.

"The violin's OK," he said. "The case held up surprisingly well."

Good thing, because Walters said the violin is handmade and irreplaceable.

Walters was OK too, also a good thing, because he's the coordinator of this week's all-state music festival at Bartlett. He'll use a friend's car while his Jeep is in the shop, and he'll probably re-think his choice to do without studded tires this winter.

Walters said he took the Jeep to a tire shop, where he was told that his regular all-weather tires looked good.

"I decided, OK, why not save the $500," he said. "That was a bad idea, because my deductible's $500."

The usual chaos that accompanies the first significant snowfall of the winter started Saturday, when an inch of wet snow fell in Anchorage.

The Police Department recorded 46 accidents and 30 vehicles in distress during the 24-hour period.

Among them was a fatal accident that occurred in the snow and dark of early morning. A downtown pedestrian was killed when he was hit by a dump truck and dragged several blocks while caught in the truck's back wheels.

Police said they may not be able to provide the man's name for another day or two.

He was the eighth pedestrian killed on Anchorage streets this year.

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