By Jenny Neyman
Drivers who had the misfortune, or misjudgment, to make the trek between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula on Sunday were treated to harrowing road conditions along the Seward and Sterling highways, with Alaska State Troopers issuing a warning to motorists to stay put unless they absolutely had to attempt the drive.
The storm, which also caused accidents and power outages on the central peninsula, brought hurricane-force winds along Turnagain Arm and heavy, slushy rain at lower elevations turned into large, wet snowflakes up high, which quickly blanketed the road with deep drifts and created whiteout conditions.
“That was just a long haul,” said Dave Edwards-Smith, of Soldotna, who drove home from Anchorage with his wife, Dawn, and kids Sunday after attending their son’s fencing tournament. The drive up Saturday was fine. Sunday’s return trip took about six hours and was the worst snow conditions he said he’s ever seen on that drive. “Oh my God, my back was killing me, my leg was killing me, my hands were white-knuckled,” he said.
They left Anchorage around 2 p.m., driving into the howling wind tunnel that Turnagain Arm had become.
“I’ve gone around the arm I don’t know how many times, but that was the worst one ever. The wind was insane. You had the wind, you had the slush, and the temperature, according to the car, was that midpoint 34, 33 degrees — almost freezing but not quite. It was that slushy stuff, is it rain, is it ice, is it both? So that was really slow,” Edwards-Smith said.
They got to Girdwood and filled up with gas in between flickering power outages at the gas station.
Back in the car — their usually surefooted, heavy, all-wheel-drive Subaru with good tires — they decided to push on until about 3:30 p.m. when daylight would start to fade, and decide at that point whether to keep going or turn around.
“Then all the questions are flying: ‘What the hell are we doing?’ ‘Should we even be trying this?’ We thought, ‘Ah, we can do this,’” Edwards-Smith said. Continue reading