Giant snow cone keeps growing higher and higher in Valdez

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The giant snow cone in Valdez is growing.

The mound is fashioned from snow gathered by plows and dumped in a parking lot in the seaside town of about 4,000 residents. Some estimates say it now stands about six stories tall.

It’s a lot of snow, even for Valdez — a town that’s used to being dumped on in winter.

Wendy Zwickl, a meteorological technician at the town’s National Weather Service station, can see the giant snow cone from her office window.

“This is our solution for where to put all the snow and we are running out of space,” Zwickl said.

Zwickl has lived in Valdez for more than 14 years but the amount of snow now piled besides roads and houses has even her blinking — twice — sometimes.

“It has been amazing,” she said of the huge amount of white stuff falling from the sky.

It’s also been funny, she said.

People have been using the snow banks as giant message boards. Valentine’s Day messages done with food coloring and spray paint appeared in February. One is still visible, even after a 26-inch snow dump over the weekend. It says, “Sweetness, I love you forever.”

For the Super Bowl, someone gave a shout-out to the New England Patriots. Last week, people learned via snow bank that Chinese acrobats were coming to town.

Zwickl said driving in town is a sometimes harrowing experience, as drivers try to negotiate streets that have turned into a white-walled maze of snow banks. The worst part is trying to see around corners.

Walking from the weather station to a site where temperatures are recorded has become a mind-blowing trek through a snow maze with 8-foot walls and corridors stretching in different directions.

“It is bizarre,” Zwickl said.

The conditions have some people cheering for even more snow. Zwickl said the weather station gets frequent calls from people wanting to know how close the town is to breaking the all-time snowfall record of 560.7 inches set in the winter of 1989-90.

“We are very proud of our snow,” Zwickl said. “We are the No. 1 snowiest city in North America.”

Valdez needs about 160 more inches, or 13 feet, to break the record. While that sounds like a lot, it’s not to people in Valdez. In one 24-hour period during the infamous winter of 1989-90, 47 inches of snow fell. The town on average receives 326.3 inches of snow.

One record already fell Monday, when snow on the ground measured 97 inches, or 8 feet. It was the most ever for a Feb. 27.

03/01/2012 - 11:47am