Skip to main content

You think you got a lot of snow?

By Tony Gorman
January 4, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Snow and ice blanket downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi River on Wednesday, January 8. Snow and ice blanket downtown St. Louis and the Mississippi River on Wednesday, January 8.
HIDE CAPTION
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
Winter weather grips U.S.
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ex-Mississippian Tony Gorman now lives in the snow capital of the U.S.
  • Valdez, Alaska, has gotten as much as 550 inches of snow in one season
  • He says schools remain open, businesses operate after big snowfalls
  • Gorman: Biggest problems are disposing of snow and lightening the load of snow on roofs

Editor's note: Tony Gorman is news director for KCHU Terminal Radio in Valdez, Alaska, which covers the Prince William Sound and The Copper River Valley. He has also reported on issues in southwest and southeast Alaska during his almost six years in Alaska.

(CNN) -- The northeast region of the United States got pummeled with snow. It was bad, really bad. According to the National Weather Service, nearly 2 feet of snow fell north of Boston while other parts of the Northeast received as much as 18 inches. That was good enough to shut down schools, cancel flights in the region and declare snow emergencies.

For my city, Valdez, Alaska, 18 inches of snow is just another day; schools operate, companies stay open and people go about their daily routines.

The Prince William Sound community, where the Trans Alaska Pipeline and the Richardson Highway end, tops the list as the snowiest city in United States, according to The Weather Channel. It averages 326.3 inches of snow each year and has gotten as much as 556.7 inches in one season. Yet the city manager has said that declaring a snow emergency would be "humiliating."

Tony Gorman
Tony Gorman

How does a town with a population of nearly 4,000 cope with all that snow?

The plows go out in the early mornings trying to clear the snow before locals head to work and school. It's not smart to be driving during snow removal. Sometimes you can drive head-on into the path of a snowplow. Then there are the berms, that barrier of unplowed snow in the middle of the road. Unless you have an SUV or a truck that's high off the ground, making that left turn isn't advised. Those two obstacles can turn your drive down the street into an adventure.

During this time, locals are asked not to park in the streets, at risk of getting a ticket.

America\'s snow capital piles some of the plowed snow into a snow cone in a parking lot near city hall.
America's snow capital piles some of the plowed snow into a snow cone in a parking lot near city hall.

Where is all that snow stored? The city uses its local parks as snow dumps. They're green during the summer and white by winter. Barney Meyring Park is by far the biggest park strip in town. There are playgrounds, basketball courts and a large open space for dogs to run around in the park. The south end was used as a temporary football field last season. All those assets are hidden beneath several feet of snow during the winter.

Next to city hall is another snow storage site, a parking lot that is turned into a two-story high snowcone every winter.

Those are just the public and commercial places. During that quick trip to the store, now a little longer because you're dodging berms and snowplows, you will notice people with snowblowers in the driveways and on the roofs. Some residents have their own snowplows. Most just push the snow to the sidewalks and let the city crews do the rest.

For me, Valdez was a shock. I grew up in Mississippi: If 2 inches of snow hit the ground (stick or melt), there was no school for that day.

The frosty sequel: Temps plunge
Brutal snow storm bears down on U.S.
Did de Blasio pass the snow test?
See reporter faint in snow, then...

I got my first taste of a REAL winter when I ventured off to college in Nebraska. I remember sitting in the dorm and watching TV when the first snowstorm of the school year came. I thought for sure classes would be canceled. Every educational institution in the area canceled classes, except mine. Still in shock from not seeing my college's name scroll across the bottom of the screen, I bundled up and headed to class.

When I moved to Alaska, I had the same thoughts about the Last Frontier as everyone else: It's cold, with igloos and polar bears. I thought my Midwest experience had prepared me for the elements of Alaska. My first winter in the state was in Wrangell, a town of more than 2,300 people in Southeast Alaska. As in the rest of the region, it rains much of the time. I saw plenty of snow during my two-year stint there, but it was nothing compared to Valdez. People warned me, but I didn't listen. I thought I was good with a nice coat, gloves and a decent pair of boots. It has been three years since I've moved here and I still have a sort of love-hate relationship with the snow.

One thing is clear: It takes a lot of snow for the city to shut schools and businesses. That happened during the 2011-12 winter. After a slow start, Alaska's south central region was pummeled from December through February.

It got really bad for Valdez's regional counterpart, Cordova. With the snow dumps full, that city declared a state of emergency and called in the Alaska National Guard to clear out most of the snow.

Valdez officials came close to going in that direction after schools and businesses were closed because of excessive snow loads on roofs. Valdez City Manager John Hozey said it best during rounds of meetings with the public and other leaders: "Valdez prides itself on being the snow capital in the world. And for us to declare a state of emergency would be humiliating."

Officials in Valdez didn't call in the National Guard, but relied on outside help with snow removal. It brought in workers from other parts of the state to help cut blocks of snow off the roofs of schools and businesses. A shovel that season was the most valuable tool in town.

That winter saw seasonal records broken throughout the state. Anchorage bragged about breaking its seasonal record with 134.5 inches. Valdez's response: "Good for you." It received 152.2 inches in the month of December and closed out with 438.3 inches for the season. (Valdez's record for snowfall in a season was set during the 1989-90 winter with 556.7 inches.)

I've had plenty of days where my sense of accomplishment from digging out my car from a previous snowfall is taken away minutes later by the next. Digging out my radio station's satellite dishes has become a regular winter chore.

I can get by without studs on my tires, but they sure would make driving easier in those slippery areas. One of these days, I'll get used to the all the snow here in Valdez.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Gorman.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 21, 2014 -- Updated 1750 GMT (0150 HKT)
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2322 GMT (0722 HKT)
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 2147 GMT (0547 HKT)
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1544 GMT (2344 HKT)
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 1958 GMT (0358 HKT)
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2315 GMT (0715 HKT)
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT