Fairbanks officially received 8.9″ of the white stuff from Sunday night to Monday afternoon. That’s 13″ for the month of March, and more on the way for Wednesday. It looks to be our snowiest March since 1991.
On the ground, we officially have 32″ of snow. At the cabin, I have more than that, and in the hills above Fairbanks, there is certainly even more yet.
For the outdoor enthusiast, the snow is a boon for social distancing. No staying inside, when one can find a trail, or make your own.
There is something quite impressive about a Southwestern Alaska blizzard. We were out at the far end of the village, when our local guide told us that we had 15 minutes left to take cover. He had become incredibly reliable with his predictions, and we had already used up 3/4 of an hour from his first warning call. He had been counting down regularly after that first one.
Visibility had been shortened considerably, and it was obvious that we needed to take cover soon. Even Bear, our furry, four-legged companion, had left us to take his own cover at the 30 minute warning mark.
One side of the church…
… and the other side of the church after the storm.
By sunset, one could hardly see the closest building to you. The wind howled over, under and around the building that housed us. It was simply put: Intense. I can’t think of any time I have experienced such fierce winds. In Fairbanks, we rarely see much wind, the colder it gets, the calmer it gets. Out here in Newtok was a totally different animal. Which meant that we spent far too much time outside reveling in the chaos.
The next day, the kids were climbing up snow drifts against a couple of connex units and running the length of them, then launching off into the massive piles of snow. Backflips were par for the course.
Trails that we had been walking, now had steep drops, only to have us climb back up the other side.
We flew in on a Wednesday, and due to weather, another flight didn’t land at Newtok for the next 8 days. Weather permitting, Grant Aviation makes 2-3 flights per day.
Forty Below brings calls about frozen pipes when you work construction. I’m not a plumber by trade, but when Fairbanks hits a cold snap, there are not enough plumbers or heating guys in the north for all of the calls. I don’t go out of my way to do these jobs, but if one of my regulars tracks me down, I’m not going to give them the cold shoulder.
The pictured cat belongs to one of my regular customers, and she does not like to be ignored. This was not the first time I’ve ignored this cat, only to have it leap upon my back, or shoulder, or use my leg as a scratching post. A thick work shirt is required here.
The cat is a curious creature: always fascinated with the work I’m doing, the tools of the job, and the materials needed. A newly opened wall is an invitation to a new adventure, and a ladder, of any kind, causes a race to the top.
The house also comes with a dog. The dog is not curious. In fact, the dog is a bit of a coward. Any work I do, sends it off shivering to the farthest corner of the house from where I’m working. The shivering often comes with a lot of whining. In the summer, I can let the dog outside, but at Forty Below, I’m stuck with the high pitched soundtrack coming from the corner.
First time in my life I find myself less of a dog-person.
Across the state, Alaskan cities and villages saw their warmest year ever recorded. Utqiagvik, Kotzebue, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Bethel, Kodiak and Cold Bay, all saw record warmth in 2019 as a whole. For the first time since recording began, Fairbanks had an average temperature above freezing.
Juneau had a record number of days of 70F or higher, which was enough to give the capital city their third warmest year.
Across the state we set 326 new record highs, as opposed to just 12 record lows.
Graph credit: NOAA, ACCAP, @AlaskaWx
Statewide, Alaska had 87% of its days above normal, with only 13% of days with below normal temps. Normal is based on 1981-2010 averages.
The tail end of December did see a dip in temps, at least in the Interior and northern regions. Sea ice has finally started to extend, although the amount is still lower than what we had at this point in 2019.
The temperature at the Anchorage International Airport fell to -10F on Sunday morning. That is the first time Anchorage has seen minus ten in 3 years.
Last Friday morning the temp at the cabin was -30F. On Tuesday morning the temp was +25F. So as many in the Lower 48 experience cooler temps, we in Interior Alaska are back in sweatshirts. In fact, I even saw someone breaking out the shorts on Tuesday.
I haven’t gone that far yet, but I do have at least one open window.
Thursday morning was just a tad chilly in Interior Alaska. Fort Yukon dropped to -45F. The record low for the date in Fort Yukon is -68F, so it’s still balmy from that vantage point.
The Fairbanks airport hit -20F at 8am on Thursday. The first time we had officially dropped to -20 for the season. We are 2-1/2 weeks late (November 19) from the average first -20 of the season, but we are still 10 days earlier than in 2018.
The temp at the cabin at 8am was -26F on Thursday.
November was a warm month across the State of Alaska. With the lack of sea ice, Utqiagvik was a staggering 16.1 degrees above normal for the month. By comparison, Fairbanks was a modest 10.6 degrees above normal for November.
Graph credit: ACCAP
Sea ice in the Chukchi Sea was at the lowest level ever recorded for November. In fact, sea ice was at such a low level, that it was below the daily average levels for entire summers prior to 2001.
November highlights: Data credit: NOAA; Graphic credit: @AlaskaWx
Some highlights for the month statewide:
The final week of the month hit the village of Bettles, with a record 3-day snowfall of 28.3″. That same storm also set the 2-day record.
Anchorage, Cold Bay and Kodiak all saw their warmest November on record, while Utqiagvik experienced its second warmest.
On Thanksgiving morning the temperature in Fairbanks was 33F, which is only the seventh time in 116 years that Fairbanks saw above freezing temperatures on that day.
Nome had no snow on the ground during November, yet Chulitna received 78.5″!
Kotzebue continues its streak of above average temperatures for the 27th consecutive month.
Astronauts Pete Conrad, Alan Bean and Dick Gordon launched from Kennedy Space Center on this date in 1969 aboard Apollo 12.
The launch occurred as rainy weather enveloped the Cape. 37 seconds after launch, lightning struck the rocket, causing all sorts of haywire across the control panel. At the 52 second mark, a second lightning strike took out the “8-Ball” attitude indicator. Just about every warning light on the control panel was now lit, and the resulting power supply problems caused much of the instrumentation to malfunction.
Back at Mission Control, EECOM flight controller John Aaron, had seen this before in simulations. He calmly suggested a solution to the Flight Director, “Flight, try SCE to Aux”. Even though few knew what Aaron was talking about, the order was sent to Apollo 12, and Bean flipped the SCE switch to Auxiliary setting. Telemetry was immediately restored, and Apollo 12 continued on with its mission.
John Aaron was forever known as that “Steely-eyed missile man” from then on.
Astronaut Alan Bean on the surface of the moon. Photo by Charles “Pete” Conrad
The lunar module, with Conrad and Bean, landed in the area known as the Ocean of Storms on November 19. The landing site was within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 probe, which had landed on the moon in April of 1967. To date, it is the only time mankind has “retrieved” a probe sent to another world.
Solar eclipse from Apollo 12, on its return home to Earth. Photo credit: NASA
The crew of Apollo 12 returned to Earth on 24 November 1969. Landing east of American Samoa, they were recovered by the USS Hornet.
The Apollo 12 mission lasted just over 10 days, 4-1/2 hours.