Tag Archives: winter

The remnants of Merbok…

…still packed quite the punch.

Graphic credit: NWS-Fairbanks

The western coast of Alaska was pummeled over the weekend by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. Sustained winds over 50 mph, with gusts over 90; 50 foot waves and a storm surge 15 feet above high tide left many evacuating to higher ground.

Image credit: NOAA

It was the worst storm our Western Coast has experienced in 50 years, and it has been 70 years since a storm this fierce hit in September.

Front Street, Nome, Alaska; Image credit: S.Kinneen

To its credit, The National Weather Service was remarkably accurate in its forecast of the storm. Several days out, the NWS was getting out the word that this was going to be a devastating flooding event. All the ingredients came together perfectly to create some “very angry seas”.

A house swept off its foundation by flood waters, stuck at the Snake River Bridge in Nome, Alaska; Photo credit: Alaska DOT&PF
From the steps of the school in Golovin, Alaska; Photo credit: Josephine Daniels

High winds have taken roofs off of buildings, one building in Nome suffered from a fire, and the storm surge has evicted hundreds. Many took shelter in schools, or to higher ground.

My favorite village of Newtok has been flooded, and many have taken to the school for shelter. The riverbank at Newtok has eroded between 10-15 feet overnight. Newtok is one of several villages in Alaska in dire need of relocation due to erosion and sinking ground.

Water levels in many flooded villages are not expected to drop until Monday, and in some cases Tuesday. The timing of the storm is particularly difficult, with winter on the horizon. The village of Shaktoolik lost its sea berm to the storm, which leaves it vulnerable to additional winter storms. The village of Chevak lost much of its fishing fleet when boats sank or were damaged in the storm.

We really have two seasons in Alaska: Winter, and Preparing for Winter. Preparing for winter in Western Alaska is now going to be a huge challenge.


Musher under the northern lights

An undated and untitled painting by Magnus “Rusty” Heurlin; Currently located at the Anchorage Museum

A season in the life of a trail cam

Early September
Late September
Early November
Start of the Solstice Storm
A bit snowy
Winter Solstice afternoon
Evening on the Winter Solstice
Snow packed lens
Lens starting to break free of ice and snow
Late January visitor
February; The sun begins to return, and moose tracks

Dead battery….


A snowy Denali National Park

The view across Denali National Park at the end of May, 2022

In the 99 years of record keeping within Denali National Park, the winter of 2021-22 was the record setter. 176 inches of snow fell at park headquarters this past winter, breaking the 174″ of 1970-71.

As of May 15, there were still 33″ of snow on the ground at the park’s headquarters, far above average for this late in the season.

It’s been a tough winter for wildlife, particularly moose, who have had to fight the deep drifts. Both moose and bears have been traveling on the park road, so traffic has been limited past Sable Pass. Bicyclists normally can travel up & down the park road, but with the stressed wildlife, that will remain limited until the snow melts.

The shuttle bus will only be traveling as far as Pretty Rocks, due to the road collapse from the melting ice formation.

The park’s visitor center will be open for the first time since 2019, and the park’s sled dog kennel will also be open for tours. 2022 is the 100th anniversary for the Denali Park Sled Dog Kennel.


A new Champ

Brent Saas and his team mushes into Nome

Brent Saas, in his seventh Iditarod, won the 2022 race. He crossed under the famed burled arch in Nome early Tuesday morning. Local temps were hovering around zero. It was the first Iditarod win for Sass. Five time winner, Dallas Seavey came in second. A win would have given Seavey a record sixth title, but Sass, who ran a phenomenal race, held on for the victory.

Brent Sass, and his lead dogs Slater and Morello, after winning the Iditarod

Brent Sass first ran the Iditarod in 2012, winning rookie of the year when he came in 13th. Sass has won the Yukon Quest three times.

Images credit: Alaska Public Media


A bit of snow


Hoarding Daylight

Moose tracks

It’s still winter in Alaska: it was -10F on Sunday morning, and expected to drop to -20F Monday night, but the switch has been flipped. The sled dogs are running, the ice carvings are on display, and the aurora shows itself almost nightly.

March in Alaska.

Already, we have over 13 hours of visible light during the day, and our days are gaining length by almost 7 minutes with each spin of the Earth.

March is a beautiful time in Alaska’s Interior.


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


Alaska Travel: 2022

The Togiak Basketball Team

Basketball is THE sport in remote Alaska. Many teams have not traveled to games since early 2020. Dillingham, with The Sockeye Classic, was one of the first communities to host teams for a tournament at the end of January 2022.

Weather threatened to keep the teams from Togiak from traveling to Dillingham. High winds kept any planes on the ground, and there are no roads connecting the network of communities around Bristol Bay. The student athletes, parents and teachers agreed to get together some snowmachines, and travel the 80 miles across the tundra to the tournament.

The trip took six hours instead of the expected four, and one sled broke down along the route, but the trekkers made it to Dillingham and were able to finally play against someone other than themselves in over two years.

Have route, will travel.


You eyeballin’ me?

My welcoming committee when I arrived home the other night. Her calf was on the other side of me, blockading the trail to the cabin. Neither moose was in an accommodating mood.