Warm-up causes meltdown

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 15:42

At the rate she’s throwing curve balls, Mother Nature might want to try out for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks baseball team next summer.

After a November highlighted by bitter cold and ice jams, December has featured unseasonably warm temperatures and high winds that have played havoc with local ski trails and roads. On Monday, Dec. 11, the high temperature in Anchorage was 46 degrees Fahrenheit, just one degree cooler than the record set in 1985. According to the National Weather Service Alaska Region, temperatures for the first 10 days of the month averaged 32.1 degrees — more than 12 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The warm weather has caused a number of problems, with two fatal vehicle crashes reported on the Glenn Highway in the past week. The warm weather also forced organizers of the Besh Cup Nordic ski races to move this weekend’s races to Fairbanks after it was determined trails at Kincaid Park likely wouldn’t be usable. Nordic ski trails in Chugiak have been closed for several days, with municipal officials warning people to stay off the icy, debris-covered trails until winter returns. On Thursday, Dec. 7, after-school activities were cancelled by the Anchorage School District — causing the Chugiak High hockey team to forfeit a planned tournament game in Houston. However, school has not been called off so far this school year due to inclement weather.

Local lakes have also been largely vacated by ice fishermen and skaters, who are being warned by the Municipality of Anchorage to use extreme caution. According to the municipality’s most recent winter recreation ice and trail status updated Dec. 6, ice on Beach Lake was between 9 and 10 inches thick, with ice on Edmonds Lake reportedly at 7-8 inches, Fire Lake 7.5-9 inches and Mirror Lake 10 inches. Ice skating is not currently recommended.

The report is typically updated Wednesdays after the Star goes to print, and municipal officials said Tuesday they could not provide further information about ice thickness until then. Check the muni’s website for current conditions.

Fortunately for commuters and snow sports fans, things are expected to return to normal by the weekend, with the National Weather Service predicting a cool-down to being Thursday night, when temperatures are expected to drop to around 20 degrees. The more seasonable weather will also bring a chance of snow to the area, and temperatures are expected to remain below freezing into next week.

The warm temperatures did have one positive impact: An ice jam blocking Peters Creek is gone. The jam had caused some flooding on Aurora Borealis Road and elsewhere in the area, but as of Tuesday the creek had dropped several feet and was flowing well within its banks — with the only evidence of the flooding seen in massive sheets of ice that clung to the banks high above the waterline.

For more information and up-to-date weather forecasts, visit the National Weather Service Alaska Region homepage at weather.gov/afc.

Email editor@alaskastar.com or call (907) 205-0082.

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