It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block.

The Alaskan city of Cordova is used to snow, but not this much snow. Officials estimate that the southern coastal community along Prince William Sound has received about 18 feet so far this season. And it's testing the roofs and roads.

Joining me on the phone from his command center is Cordova Mayor James Kallander. And, Mayor Kallander, how bad is this compared to what you're used to up there?

MAYOR JAMES KALLANDER: Oh, this is precedent setting. We - even the old-timers say we're breaking new ground now.

BLOCK: Yeah, 18 feet. Eighteen feet is 18 feet.

KALLANDER: Yup. It's been pretty incredible.

BLOCK: Well, how do you deal with all that snow? What's the town doing?

KALLANDER: Well, this event started around 12th to 13th of December, and it's been snowing with great frequency since. And we have a pretty robust public works department. We have three loaders, big end loaders with snow buckets and two road graders that are all chained up. And these guys were doing pretty well until all the snow dumps filled up in town, and I'm talking about mountains of snow.

BLOCK: Yeah.

KALLANDER: And then we started just getting overwhelmed. I mean, it got to the point where we couldn't keep single lanes in subdivisions. So that's where I declared a disaster emergency.

BLOCK: And what happens when you declare a disaster emergency?

KALLANDER: Well, we have our procedure and process in our code of how you declare. And we've got, I think, around 60 or 70 National Guard folks came in yesterday on the ferry, all with shovels and climbing gear to get on roofs. And the Coast Guard held their ship back from deployment, and so there's 25 or 30 Coast Guard sailors that are pitching in, and Homeland Security has staff here. So we're getting some serious help here now.

BLOCK: What does it look like if you're driving around Cordova - assuming you can drive around Cordova, what does it look like right now with all this snow?

KALLANDER: Well, our snow dumps are - some of them are probably 25 or 30 feet high. All the roads, the main highways are pushed out now. We've had a reprieve for about 20 hours. So they're pushed out to almost full, with banks probably in the eight-foot range. All the streets signs, all the signage on the highway is covered. And we've abandoned some of the cross streets and made them into snow dumps.

BLOCK: Mm. What about electricity?

Electricity here is all underground. We've been working - the electric coop here has worked for probably the last six, eight years to move all utilities underground. So in that department, we're pretty good shape.

Mayor Kallander, I was looking at the weather forecast for Cordova, and I saw snow, snow and more snow coming your way. Is that what you're hearing?

KALLANDER: Yeah. We just - we've got a forecaster working with Homeland Security. We're looking at tomorrow potentially three more feet of snow.

BLOCK: Three more feet tomorrow.

KALLANDER: Yeah. With 40-mile-an-hour winds.

BLOCK: You ready for that?

KALLANDER: Well, we have to be, don't we?


BLOCK: I guess there's not much choice.

No. No. You know, if it gets too severe, we'll just pull everybody in, and they'll just dig their way to wherever they got to go.

I've been talking with James Kallander, the mayor of Cordova, Alaska, which has had more than 18 feet of snow this winter and lots more on the way. Mayor Kallander, thanks so much and best of luck to you.

KALLANDER: Thank you, Melissa. Take care.

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