ANCHORAGE, Alaska — When you're trying to clear nearly 15 feet of snow, a regular shovel just isn't going to cut it.
As residents in the fishing town of Cordova and 57 Alaska National Guard members tried to dig out, they learned that they didn't have the right tool for the job.
There were plenty of regular shovels around. But what they needed was a larger version with a scoop that can push a cubic foot of snow or better at a time.
"That's what's missing in Alaska," city spokesman Tim Joyce said.
"We will be shipping 72 shovels to Alaska by plane tomorrow to help," said Genevieve Gagne, product manager at the shovel's maker, Quebec, Canada-based Garant.
The new shovels cost about $50 each, and the city is paying for them with its emergency funds.
The Yukon ergo sleigh shovels, with a 26-inch scoop, have a huge advantage over regular shovels. "Trying to lift snow all day with those is pretty backbreaking," Joyce said.
"We have the National Guard right now using the standard shovel, and they're getting pretty trashed everyday — not the shovels but the Guardsmen themselves," he said.
Since Nov. 1, storms have dropped 176 inches of snow and more than 44 inches of rain on the town, about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage.
Temperatures warmed overnight, and residents awoke to standing water because of stopped-up drains. The rain also made the existing snow heavier.
The warmer temperatures — about 35 degrees midday Wednesday — brought another hazard to the Prince William Sound community of 2,200 people: avalanche danger.
There's one road leading out, and it was closed though it could be opened for emergency vehicles.
The city also is warning people not to stand under the eaves of their houses to clear snow off the roof for fear the snow will come down on them.
"There's a real high potential that if it does slide, they'd be buried," he said.
So far, four commercial buildings and two homes have been damaged from snow accumulation on roofs. A 24-unit apartment complex also had to be evacuated.
The short-term forecast doesn't hold any good news. There's more snow on the way, another 5-10 inches of it.
Anchorage is expected to take the brunt of the storm, however. The National Weather Service is expecting anywhere between 9-18 inches in the state's largest city.