Tag Archives: anchorage

Some summer numbers

Map credit: ACCAP/UAF/NOAA

Wildfires within Alaska burned less than half the usual acreage in 2020, which is not really a surprise with an unusually wet summer.

Fairbanks had its 12th warmest and 20th wettest summer in the past 90 years.

Anchorage saw its 23rd warmest and 28th wettest in the past 70 years.

Juneau had its 10th warmest and 15th wettest in the past 81 years.

The western coast of Alaska was just plain wet.

Bristol Bay had some very rough seas during the fishing season, but that didn’t keep them from setting a record year for sockeye salmon.

The Yukon River drainage had no salmon in 2020. No chums. No kings. Nada. The entire fishery was closed.

One bright spot was the amount of sea ice in the Chukchi Sea in August. It was the most we have seen in 15 years.

Denali National Park has already seen 6″ of the white stuff.

Fairbanks has already seen frost.


Hot? It’s all perception

For the past 4-5 days, I’ve been amused by the local weather forecast. Monday and Tuesday of this week have been drawing a lot of attention for a coming “heat wave”. The extended forecast even had a sizzling HOT! for the two days, complete with an image of a blazing Sun and bright red heat waves radiating up from it. Weather forecasters couldn’t contain their excitement.

The forecast calls for a high of 82F degrees on both days.

Quite the scorcher.

On Friday, Fairbanks saw a high of 80 degrees for the 11th time this season, which historically, is the average number for a summer. In 2020, Fairbanks had only three days where we hit 80F for the entire season.

It should be noted that Anchorage residents have also been complaining about the heat. They saw a high of 78F on Saturday, and people were scrambling up into the Chugach Mountains to find snow. Anchorage hit 80F on Sunday, which was the third day in a row for them having a record high temp. In the past 70 years, Anchorage has seen 80F degrees only 37 times.


Potter Section House

Chugach State Park:

Potter Section House

The Potter Section House State Historical Site is now home to the Chugach State Park visitor center. The building was built in 1929, and was used to house section workers for this part of the Alaska Railroad. Originally, there were four section houses along the Anchorage section of the railroad. Their use was discontinued in 1978, and the Potter House is the last remaining of the four. It was listed on National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Alaska Railroad rotary snowplow

A rotary snowplow that once cleared the tracks along Turnagain Arm is also on display at Potter House. The railroad car behind the snowplow, is home to the Kenai Visitor Center. Both visitor centers have been closed due to the pandemic, and remain closed.

The section along Turnagain Arm is notorious for avalanche, although today the avalanches are planned events. Back in the day, the rotary plow revolutionized track clearing. The plow’s steel teeth cut through even the most packed snow, as well as debris from an avalanche, and the occasional frozen moose. The snow was launched from the chute hundreds of feet off the track. Two steam engines pushed the plow, with a crew of seven.

This particular rotary plow was retired in 1985, in favor of track mounted bulldozers. The Alaska Railroad still maintains one rotary snowplow in reserve.

Up close and personal; Rotary plow blades

Chugach State Park, just outside of Anchorage, covers 495,204 acres. It is the third largest state park in the United States, and the second largest in Alaska. It is truly, one of Alaska’s many gems.

A rotary snowplow in action


The Good Friday Earthquake

Aerial view of Anchorage’s Park Strip the day after the 9.2 quake; Photo from the University of Alaska Archives

Saturday, March 27 was the 57th Anniversary of the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake that hit south-central Alaska. The 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck at 5:36 pm AST, and the earth shook for the next 4 minutes and 28 seconds. Witnesses say that the earth roared like a freight train for that entire time.

The epicenter was 78 miles from Anchorage in Prince William Sound. It was a relatively shallow quake, with a depth of roughly 15 miles. 131 people were killed due to the earthquake, with 122 of the deaths due to the resulting tsunamis.

Downtown Anchorage after the 1964 earthquake; Photo from the University of Alaska Archives

Seward, Kodiak, Valdez, Chenega, were all hit by tsunamis. Shoup Bay was hit by the largest tsunami with a wave height of 220 feet.

In the first 24 hours after the main shaker, there were 11 aftershocks over 6.0, with another nine over the following three weeks. Thousands of aftershocks hit the area over the next year.


Running Below Freezing

It was a nice run Anchorage.

Graphic credit: NWS- Alaska

Anchorage made a go at it, I have to admit. They had been putting together an impressive run of days at, or below, freezing. Not Fairbanks, impressive, but impressive none the less. The record for Anchorage was, and still is, 59 days below 32F. The run ended at 58 days. Oh, so close!

The area north of the Brooks Range has the best grip on below freezing streaks, hitting 250 days of 32F or below.

By the graph: The Anchorage Run


Potter Marsh

Potter Marsh and the Chugach Mountains

Potter Marsh Bird Sanctuary is a 564 acre fresh water marsh, located at the southern end of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

The marsh was created in 1917 when the embankment for the Alaska Railroad was built up, effectively separating the fresh water from the Chugach Mountains, and the salt water from Turnagain Arm.

Potter Marsh is often called the most accessible wildlife viewing location in Alaska. The marsh is easily reached by the Seward Highway, and it contains a 1550 foot long boardwalk to keep your feet dry.

This wetland maze sees roughly 130 species of migratory and nesting birds calling it home, for at least part of the year. Moose, beavers, muskrats, eagles and hawks all can be viewed at Potter Marsh. Spawning salmon are often seen swimming up Rabbit Creek from Turnagain Arm in season.

Both brown bear and black bear use the marsh, but they are very rarely seen here. Consider yourself very lucky if you spot a bruin moving through the wetland.


Alaska Railroad 2021

Alaska Railroad outside Whittier, Alaska

Rail service was just another casualty in Alaska from Covid-19. With no tourists last summer, rail service took a huge hit within the state.

The Alaska Railroad has already announced increased service on all of their routes. Service between Anchorage and Fairbanks will double: 2020 had only four trains per week, while 2021 will see a total of eight. Every day of the week will see either a northbound or southbound run, and Sundays will see both.

Flagstop service will return to the Anchorage-Fairbanks route, which allows riders to get on or off anywhere along to route to access remote cabins and homesteads. The Alaska Railroad is the only train service in the United States that still provides flagstop service.

Southbound Alaska Railroad passenger train at the Anchorage Depot


Winter Weather Advisory

Our first of the season.

It’s been an odd year, all the way around, but especially with the weather. Fairbanks had a dusting of snow last week, but nothing measurable. Anchorage had measurable snow before we did.

Juneau beat both Fairbanks and Anchorage for the season’s first freeze. Juneau! That’s just not right.

So winter is coming for Fairbanks. Even though 2-3 inches of snow is hardly much to get excited over, at least it’s a start. Denali Park & Black Rapids are at least looking to get a good jump on the season.

I guess I’m ready for snow. Let it fall.

Graphics credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks


The White Stuff

Eielson Visitor Center; Photo credit: Denali National Park

Denali National Park saw snow on Friday morning. I was just recently out to the Eielson Visitor Center with visiting family members, so the pictures definitely grabbed my attention.

Fairbanks did not see snow, only 6/10 of an inch of rain.

On Saturday morning, Anchorage dropped below 40F for the first time this season. (The season started August 1) It was the first time since 1961 that Anchorage dropped below 40F before Fairbanks did. By Sunday morning, the natural order had returned to normal, when Fairbanks officially dropped to 34F and Anchorage stayed at 40F.

The (Park) road to Eielson; Photo credit: Denali National Park

I have seen snow fall in every month of the year in Alaska. Both July & August snowfalls took place when I was hiking in Denali.

The average date for the first snowfall in Fairbanks is September 30. We have seen snow in late August, and the latest first snowfall is Halloween. The average first snowfall of an inch or more is October 6.

I am not remotely ready for winter, mentally or physically. Alaska remains indifferent to my level of preparation.


910_ftrichardson

Fort Richardson National Cemetery; Anchorage, AK