Tag Archives: anchorage

27 March 1964

Anchorage, Alaska after the 9.2 Good Friday Earthquake


Rough Weekend?

Hydrate, I just need to hydrate…


The Iditarod 2022

The 50th running of the Last Great Race gets its ceremonial start this Saturday in downtown Anchorage. Mushers will then officially get the race going on Sunday from the town of Willow. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race runs annually in March and commemorates the Serum Run of 1925.

The race is mostly back to normal in 2022, with the trail following the northern route, which happens in even numbered years. All mushers must be vaccinated and will be tested during the race. All officials and volunteers must take daily tests until the race ends.

One musher, Nicolas Petit, recently tested positive for Covid-19, and had to scratch from the race. Four-time Iditarod champ, Jeff King, will run his dogs in his place. The 66 year old King last won in 2006.

49 mushers will race across the 49th State, including 13 rookies.

Map of the Iditarod Trail

Map and image credit: The Iditarod Sled Dog Race


Drop the crab

Joe’s Quality Market, the go-to place for king crab and hockey sponsorship; Anchorage, Alaska back in the day.

I doubt there will be a king crab giveaway, but Alaska Hockey returns to Fairbanks this weekend, after an extended time Outside. Finally!


Hunga Tonga Eruption

An undersea volcano erupted Saturday near the island of Tonga. The satellite imagery above is pretty intense, and the ash plume reached 20km above the earth.

Tsunami alerts were put out almost immediately, and the island of Tongatapu had waves flooding into the capital.

Courtesy of NWS/NOAA

The tsunami reached Alaska’s southern coast this morning, with King Cove recording the highest waves at 3.3 feet.

Air pressure change

That wasn’t the only wave to hit Alaska from the eruption. The shock wave of the event caused a drastic air pressure change over the state as well.

Courtesy of the NWS and NOAA

Can you hear a volcano erupt from almost 6000 miles away? It turns out that you can. Many people, who were up between 3:30-4:00 am on Saturday reported hearing a sonic boom. It’s telling that many Alaskans initially reported being awaken by a large boom, and most of them assumed it was a “moose on the porch”. Various infrasound recorders placed around the state by Alaska Volcano Observatory confirmed that the sound heard was the volcanic pressure wave, not a moose.

I find that absolutely fascinating.

A second eruption pressure wave traveled over Anchorage 19.3 hours after the first wave, traveling in the opposite direction.

As of this writing, details of the damage remained sketchy at best. It is known that waves entered Tonga’s capital, and that a thick layer of volcanic ash was dumped on the island. No deaths have been reported at this time, and it is not known how many islands have seen damage from tsunamis or ash fall. Tonga’s internet service, much like Alaska, is served via undersea cables. It is thought that those cables were damaged in the eruption.

New Zealand has sent military aircraft to Tonga to assess the damage.


Holidaze Travel

The Aurora Winter Train, Alaska Railroad Depot; Fairbanks

I had several friends travel Outside over the Holidays, while I was quite content to enjoy the cabin life in Fairbanks. Getting out wasn’t the problem. It was getting back to Alaska which has proved challenging. Most friends had layovers in Seattle, which were long enough to officially be reclassified as detours. One had a detour in Anchorage; getting oh so close to Fairbanks, but yet divided by a mountain of snow.

Two friends attempted to travel from Arizona to Fairbanks. There was a detour in Seattle, followed by a last minute flight to Anchorage. A second detour was then encountered. All flights between Alaska’s largest cities were booked out for days. Determined to get home, they booked a ride on the Alaska Railroad. I was excited for them, probably more excited than they were. I have never ridden that set of rails in the winter.

Out of the blue, I received a text from them. They were in Denali Park. “How long is this ride?” they asked. I hesitated, but eventually told them it was a 12 hour trip. One way. The Alaska Railroad is not high speed travel.

Late on New Year’s Day, I get a call. Taxis from the depot are three hours out. It’s -35F, but I head out the door to provide pickup/limo service.

The locomotive did look good, all decked out in Christmas lights.


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.