Snow piles a winter wonderland? Not so fast

By Beth Verge | 

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – It may feel like you’re walking in a winter wonderland with so many massive snow piles scattered around Anchorage, but despite the attraction to a snow-made playground, those piles can also pose potential dangers.

A drastic example of the potential threats from immobile snowbanks goes back to December of 2016, when two boys in New York were building a fort in a large snow pile. The pile collapsed, killing a 13-year-old, and leaving his 12-year-old friend recovering from hypothermia.

“We’ve been fairly lucky in Alaska the last few years,” said Marcia Howell of the Alaska Injury Prevention Center. “Around the country there have been deaths, so being really careful, making sure parents are watching kids and keeping kids off snow piles, especially if you’re in the street, is pretty important.”

While winter traditions don’t generally turn tragic, as the fort-building in New York did, there are risks to be aware of when it comes to the mini mountains around town.

“Very enticing,” Howell said of the piles. “(But) I think the two biggest risks are, one, snow plows coming – because a lot of those piles aren’t there to stay. They’re going to get moved. Snow plow drivers just can’t always see little kids. On the back side, or sliding down.

“And the other is the risk of building forts,” she said, “which is a pretty fun thing to do, but they don’t always stay up. Sometimes they collapse.”

In addition, the snow piles are composed of street snow from all around town. There’s just no way to know what could be hiding in them – people, debris or worse.

But, Howell said, you can reduce the risk of a child being harmed by being aware when driving around snow piles and by keeping track of your children when they’re out and about in the snow.

“Especially smaller kids, get out and play with them,” she said. “It’s much safer to have an adult with them in the snow. And even in this snow, they’re up to chest deep in some of it.”

For some of the most common winter home, body and vehicle mistakes, click here.