Sunday, December 5, 2010

Winter Weather, the Odd November

I realize I haven't posted anything in a couple of weeks. Its because we have been digging out from some of the worst weather I've seen in Alaska in a long time. Our odd winter started when our snow season was delayed by a long warm fall, which is quite unusual in the Interior. We usually go from early September to the deep freeze in late September. Not this year- persistent warm weather and a lack of snow had us all wondering if Al Gore just might be right after all...

By the first week of November we had only a scant covering of snow and temperatures still in the teens. It was still quite warm by mid November with some more snowfall but nothing like we usually have. As a reference point; I've seen Halloween at -30F and Thanksgiving temperatures of -20F are generally expected here. The week prior to Thanksgiving week we saw some below zero weather and things looked to be tracking colder when we got a weather alert from the good folks at NOAA. The forecast was something unbelievable- rain. I'm quite used to seeing my last rain in September.

As a reference for my more tropical readers, Alaskans prefer the cold dry winters the Interior is known for. It may be -20F and snow everywhere but the snow doesn't adhere to anything- even itself. Some of the finest powder you'll find anywhere. Roads are clear and walkways easily shoveled with a minimal amount of ice. A rainstorm where the air 33F and everything on the ground is below zero is a recipe for disaster.

The rain began to fall Thanksgiving week on a Monday afternoon and by Wednesday everything was coated with 2" of hard glaze ice. Road travel was dangerous and many families cancelled Thanksgiving travel. The ice had another expected result- power lines fell and we saw outages across the Interior. Trees fell and blocked roads and trails of all types interrupting ground travel and private aviation just stopped. To add insult to our injuries, immediately following our ice storm (which set all kinds of odd weather records by the way) our temperatures plunged into the -30Fs and stayed there for a week.