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'Snowpocalypse' hits Valdez, Alaska

The town is on track to meet or beat its all-time record but residents are prepared. There are personal-finance lessons to be found in this.

By Donna_Freedman Jan 6, 2012 2:20PM

New rule: No one can complain about shoveling snow unless he or she lives in Valdez, Alaska. This year's accumulation hit more than 246 inches as of 2 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5 -- and it was still coming down. Up to 30 inches was forecast for that particular storm.

"Valdez roads and walkways have already taken on the look of canyons and tunnels that give the town its peculiar winter charm," reported the Anchorage Daily News.

A normal winter means 321.7 inches of snow. This year more than 144 inches fell in the month of December alone, according to The Valdez Star. So how often do the kids get a day off from school?

Never. That's because the city fathers and mothers are prepared. They have to be.


We could all take a few personal-finance lessons from the way residents there handle winter. Four lessons, to be exact:

Winter is a fact of life.
It happens at about the same time every year. Certain expenses --  rent, auto insurance, the holidays -- are expected but seem to come as a shock to some folks. Just as Valdez residents budget for shovels, snow tires and the like, be sure to include recurring expenses into your spending plan. Post continues below.

Some winters are worse than others. Valdez saw 560.7 inches of snow in 1989-90. That's a little over 46 feet. Yikes! But residents coped because they had to. So do you -- even during those seasons when the car dies, your spouse is laid off and three major appliances need repair. A healthy emergency fund helps.

Evenordinary winters can be depressing. It's cold, it's dark, it's slippery -- and good grief, it's snowing again! Check out the above-linked Valdez Star article for a photo of one of the giant mountains of snow created by city plows -- local kids have great fun sliding down them.


When you're dealing with a mountain of debt, it's tempting to give in to despair. Instead, frame it as a challenge rather than a life sentence: What are the most creative ways to pay it off? At times the pace may seem slow, but stay focused and you will one day be free of the debt. (It wouldn't hurt to take time out for a little fun, as the Valdez youngsters do. Just make sure it's free fun -- like, say, going sledding.)

Always think ahead.
I'm willing to bet that Valdez residents have well-stocked pantries, warm winter gear, and plenty of fuel for the generator and/or wood piled up for the stove. Even when things are going well financially, you should be ready for life to change. That emergency fund is only the beginning. Offhand, I'd suggest learning new skills, having a retirement plan, and looking into life and disability insurance.

You should also be ready to survive whatever severe weather your own region throws at you, even if you live in a condo. A day or two (or a week) with no electricity or water service could make your life awfully uncomfortable -- even without shoveling 46 feet of snow.

More on MSN Money:

Jan 10, 2012 11:00PM
No, it's Valdez - the snow capital. Nome gets cold and storms but Valdez is the place that gets all the snow - this year is stacking up to be worse than ever.
Jan 7, 2012 2:15AM
The Coast Guard along with a Russian ice cutter (given special permission by act of Congress) are bringing oil to Valdez in the next week or so.  They need another million gallons to get through the winter.  The writer needs to read the news...
Jan 8, 2012 8:31PM
I think you've confused Valdez with Nome, Alaska:

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