Extreme cold hits Eagle River Valley

Friday, January 20, 2017 - 00:41
  • Ice
  • Eagle River Nature Center

In the 36 years records have been kept at the Eagle River Nature Center, it’s never been colder on Jan. 18 than it was in 2017. 

The center, located at the end of Eagle River Road in the Eagle River Valley, recorded an overnight low of minus-21 degrees Fahrenheit on Jan. 18, breaking the record set for this date by four degrees.

“When my boss drove in she said it hit minus-31 on the (Eagle River) Loop Road,” said Nature Center manager Laura Kruger, who said the center isn’t planning any special celebration in honor of the record.

However, she did say the center’s trails are groomed and in excellent shape.

“The trails are in awesome condition,” she said. And they’re almost empty, too.

“There’s a couple cars out here, but otherwise it’s pretty quiet,” she said. “I think people are hunkering down a little bit.”

Kruger said the center has five miles of groomed trails, and that skiing on the Eagle River is “excellent.”

However, she did caution people to be aware of overflow and changing conditions on the river. “Always be aware of your surroundings,” she said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Rebecca Duell said the extreme cold is the result of two things: a high pressure system over Interior Alaska that’s drawing cold air down from the Arctic and snowpack that’s much more extensive than it’s been the past few years.

“It kind of acts to reflect any solar energy that we do get,” she said of the snow.

The National Weather Service has weather stations at the nature center, Birchwood Airport and in the Eagle River Valley near the end of Trail Bay Drive – which recorded the coldest official temperature in the area on Wednesday at minus-25. At Birchwood it got down to 15 below zero. Duell said the coldest temperatures are in the bottom of the valley. The coldest temperature ever recorded in Anchorage was minus-34 on Jan. 5, 1975. The normal temperature range for this time of year is between 11 and 23 above, she said.

“This is fairly significantly below normal,” she said.

Duell said the last time the area saw a cold snap of this magnitude was 2012 -- the year the Nature Center recorded its low for this date.

“It hasn’t been this cold in five years,” she said.

The coldest temperatures are expected to arrive Thursday, which Duell said will likely be “a couple degrees” colder than Wednesday. The cold snap is expected to end over the weekend.

“By Sunday we should be back into the upper teens for our highs,” she said.

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