Equipment operator Terry Russ drives a broom machine up and down the runway of the Kenai Municipal Airport on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Russ had been at work since 4 a.m doing what he called “probably the most monotonous job on the airport” to keep the runway clear of snow that could soldify into ice. On heavy snow days, two broom machines drive down each side of the runway centerline, whirling away snow with heavy rotary brushes while a plow truck scrapes off packed snow and ice. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Equipment operator Terry Russ drives a broom machine up and down the runway of the Kenai Municipal Airport on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. Russ had been at work since 4 a.m doing what he called “probably the most monotonous job on the airport” to keep the runway clear of snow that could soldify into ice. On heavy snow days, two broom machines drive down each side of the runway centerline, whirling away snow with heavy rotary brushes while a plow truck scrapes off packed snow and ice. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Snow, ice makes travel difficult on Kenai peninsula

With whirls of fat, wet snowflakes mixing with cold rain around Southcentral Alaska, “you can’t ask for poorer conditions for traveling,” said spokesperson Shannon McCarthy of the Alaska Department of Transportation. Heavy snowfall over the weekend and temperatures warming to the low 30s Monday have made the area’s highways slick and spotted with drifts of snow.

“The Alaska Department of Transportation &Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) has all available equipment and personnel out clearing roads and will continue until all state routes are brought to an acceptably clear and drivable condition,” a press release from the Alaska Department of Transportation states.

Though it came down thick in Kenai, the snow was not generally spread all over the peninsula. Monday morning it rained in Seward, where administrative assistant Jennifer Cotter of the Seward Public Works Department said there had been small avalanches that workers cleaned up near Lowell Point Road.

Homer remained warmer throughout the day than the central peninsula. The Homer airport reported a temperature of 43 degrees on Monday afternoon, versus Kenai’s 31 degrees.

The National Weather Service does not predict that temperatures will fall will significantly this week. McCarthy said DOT’s job would be easier if they would.

“It’s nice to get snow and then (for the weather to) get cold and stay cold … because you can move snow around, you can get it out of the way,” McCarthy said.

Though Turnagain Pass is not closed, the driving conditions there were difficult Monday. The highway between Anchorage and Hope was very slick and what DOT described as difficult driving conditions, McCarthy said. Even the DOT vehicles were using chains, she said.

Drivers weren’t the only travelers to be affected by the weather. Kenai Municipal Airport manager Mary Bondurant said her crews started testing braking conditions on the runway at 4 a.m, two hours before flights begin to arrive. The airport’s two broom machines and a road-grader serving as a plow made continual trips up and down the runway — the brooms spinning their heavy rotating brushes on either side of the centerline, while the grader scraped off packed snow and ice that accumulated on the runway’s sides. On less snowy days, one broom can do the job.

“With it warming like this we need to get the snow off as soon as we can so it doesn’t freeze to ice,” Bondurant said.

The airport’s rules require clearing to start when the runways have half an inch of snow. This year the crews have been busy, Bondurant said, although in the lighter winters of the previous two years they were out only two or three times.

“We’re back to normal Alaska weather,” Bondurant said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com. Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

Two broom machines clear snow from in front of the Kenai Municipal Airport terminal on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

Two broom machines clear snow from in front of the Kenai Municipal Airport terminal on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ben Boettger/Peninsula Clarion)

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