More misery to come for snow-buried Alaskan town

Residents now fear flooding, then ice as temperatures are expected to plunge to the single digits in Cordova by Friday.
CBS News

There is an American town where the military has set out to move mountains -- mountains of snow. Cordova, Alaska -- population 2,200 -- is buried under more than 15 feet of snow that has fallen over the last few weeks. Now it has started raining, making the snow even heavier. And on top of that, the town is running out of shovels. CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy managed to make it to Cordova just as the town deals with another burden.

The National Guard is still digging out Cordova, working 24 hours a day to unbury homes and businesses.

And now with temperatures in the mid 30s, much of that snow is turning to slush.

"The snow is now becoming slop," Tracy commented to a man.

"That's today," he responded, "but it'll probably freeze tonight, and then you got a hell of a mess."

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A steady rain has made the snow even heavier and harder to move. Glenn Anderson, the deputy harbormaster, is trying to keep boats from sinking.

"Each shovel load is -- I don't know what it weighs -- 30, 40, 50 pounds? It's like taking big large stones out of a quarry," he said.

So they called in the Coast Guard to help save Cordova's harbor.

"These guys need us. We're here to help," said Coast Guard Petty Officer Tyler Juel, who spent hours digging out the piers.

"What does a boat mean to people around here?" asked Tracy.

"This is their livelihood," said Juel. "It means everything to them. These guys here, all they have is fishing. These boats go down, they can't feed their families, can't do anything."

Those 15 feet of snow contain more than 20 billion gallons of water. Folks here now fear flooding and temperatures are expected to plunge to the single digits here by Friday. So the city is moving as many mountains of snow as it can before they freeze into icebergs.

There's so much snow here and nowhere left to put it, so they actually brought a snow melter in on a barge. They dump the snow in there, heat it to 150 degrees, and then it shoots out as water."

"So where's all this snow go? Tracy asked someone.

"Out to the inlet."

"Out to the water?"

"Out to the water."

Making way for more snow to come -- February and March are two of Cordova's snowiest months

  • Ben Tracy

    Ben Tracy is a CBS News White House correspondent based in Washington, D.C.