Commentary

This sucks

Rains of near biblical proportions were falling on Southcoastal Alaska on Monday to wash away what is normally winter.

Had bad was it? See the top-10 worst below. But first the news.

More than two and a quarter inches fell on the Anchorage Hillside between 4 a.m. and 10 p.m., and on the Kenai Peninsula to the south residents reported torrential rains and unusually high winds.

“It was raining so hard, and it was so windy,” said longtime Seward resident Bob Candopoulos. “You could hear it coming at two or three in the morning. It sounded like a freight train.”

Freight-train thundering winds are common on the Hillside, but not so in Seward. The winds above Anchorage were peaking near 80 mph Monday, but along Turnagain Arm to the east a remote weather station near McHugh Creek clocked a gust of 113 mph, an apparent record.

The winds moving inland from a storm tracking north across the Gulf of Alaska appeared to be funneling up the fiord-like Arm instead of coming over the Chugach Front Range Mountains. In the process, a venturi effect developed, accelerating what were already strong gusts.

The winds and rain were bad across much of the region without that.

“It was just a downpour,” said Kenai’s Rueben Hanke after road tripping west to east across the Peninsula.  “I’ve never seen rain this heavy even in summer.”

Trees were blown down as well along the Sterling and Seward highways, he and others added. A hundred miles to the north, temperatures into the 40s pushed deep into the foothills of the Alaska Range although there was less precipitation falling there.

Anchorage experienced rain, wind and icy roads where earlier snow had been packed by traffic. School closed, and even some of the mail men and women famous for their creed that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” sheltered in place.

Hillside residents tracking scheduled deliveries of Christmas packages instead got messages alerting them: “Delivery Attempted – No Access to Delivery Location.”

Lovers of winter, meanwhile, could only lament what could have been. The volume of rain that fell on the Hillside would have produced about two feet of snow if the weather had been colder, but it wasn’t because the beginning of the winter of 2019-2020 has sucked.

Let us count the ways

  1. Ya, can’t ski in a hurricane; no, ya can’t ski in a hurricane even if you can find snow.
  2. Gore-tex is only rated to 40 psi.
  3. The neighbors aren’t happy when the wind blows your car out of your ice-covered driveway, and it blocks their driveway. (Yes, this reportedly happened in a subdivision above Anchorage.)
  4. “I’m Dreaming of a Wet Christmas” just doesn’t have the right ring to it.
  5. Packrafting is supposed to be a summer, backcountry activity; not a winter, urban street activity.
  6. Paybacks are a bitch after the warmest, friendliest summer on record in Anchorage posted an average temperature of 63.2 degrees.(Hey, if you’re a coastal Alaskan, 63.2 is sweltering!)
  7. Gusty winds and the disintegrating cliffs are turning the Seward Highway east from the state’s largest city to the resort community of Girdwood into a drive straight out of an end-of-the-world, sci-fi thriller.
  8. You can’t really chase the rambunctious, home-from-school kids outside to play in this weather.
  9. Dark skies and bare ground make the long dark of the Alaska December even longer and darker.
  10. And worst of all, flickering lights make some fear they could lose contact with their social media and miss the latest meaningless Tweet from the brainless Twitterati.

Now feel free to add your view on what’s worst about this or – God forbid – what you might see as good. It is possible that this weather might make someone who grew up in parts of Southeast Alaska feel right at home.

29 replies »

  1. Let me add some real “Climate Change”..

    “However, the sailing stone was not discovered until 2017 by paleontologist Paul Olsen from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and his colleagues.

    Sailing stones are rocks or boulders that move across landscapes without assistance from gravity, people, or animals. They usually leave tracks as they go.

    This slab of sandstone has been on display since 1896, showing off the scaly footprints of a prosauropod dinosaur. Scientists only recently realized that the deep grooves on the left may be the track of a sailing stone.

    This slab of sandstone has been on display since 1896, showing off the scaly footprints of a prosauropod dinosaur. Scientists only recently realized that the deep grooves on the left may be the track of a sailing stone.

    Olsen and his colleagues believe the trail of the rock could be evidence of a brief freezing event in the tropics some 200 million years ago — the first proof that volcanic winters reached into the humid tropics during the dawn of the dinosaur age.

    According to a statement from the university, he and his colleagues believe the sandstone was deposited during the last of a series of eruptions that led to a mass extinction.

    “This may be evidence of the cooling caused by the volcanic winter,” says Olsen.

    • Guess there is hope afyer all…..
      “DOZENS of new branches on Earth’s tree of life were discovered this year thanks to a team of researchers that scoured the globe for new species.

      Mediterranean ants, goblin spiders, sea slugs, flowering plants and coral were just some of the 71 new species researchers at the California Academy of Sciences uncovered this year.”

  2. According to fisheries biologists warm coastal winters are good for Pacific halibut.

    “When temperatures near the coast are higher and cooler in the interior, accompanied by below-average pressure, fishery biologists have noted that Pacific halibut tend to have better recruitment. The opposite is true when the temperatures are lower near the coast and higher near the interior, accompanied by above-average sea level pressures, recruitment tends to be lower.”

    https://www.alaskajournal.com/2019-12-04/uneven-status-pacific-halibut-revealed-annual-data

  3. Plenty of snow out here in the Interior Up against Canada. Close to 4 feet has fallen already this year. Sure about a foot of it melted off earlier during that short warm snap, but I haven’t seen above freezing since then. It would make me feel better if it was a little colder though. We’ve been hovering between 10 above to -10 below with an occasional -20-30 below here and there. I think maybe the sooner you all freeze up down there the sooner we will get our cold weather back.

    Squeak squeak squeak…..it’s that time of year where you can’t sneak up anyone or anything out here.

  4. Straight from NOAA’s mouth (Oct 2019)

    “Alaskans can expect higher temperatures and more precipitation this winter, according to a forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    In a national winter outlook that covers December through February, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says Alaska will have a greater than 40% chance of having a warmer than normal winter.

    Alaska is also forecast to see more than normal amounts of precipitation, NOAA says. For the Aleutians and Southwest Alaska, there’s at least a 50% chance of higher than normal precipitation.

    Warmer air masses hold more moisture, said Bill Ludwig, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. ”

    Now, does any sane person want to tell me this is all caused by man? Ah the hubris….

  5. I live in Valdez and this is yet the start of another crap winter. The last good winter we had was 12-13 and then the following winter something broke. It has stayed broken ever since then. We don’t get the snow we used to and now it rains more often than it snows. We are very fortunate to have the foot of snow we do as it would otherwise be completely miserable. Like Craig wrote, bare ground and darkness make it even darker.

    My outlook on winter has changed significantly over the past 6 years. Valdez is known for snow and we are spoiled. Snow is what I grew up with, what I expect and a very big reason to why I live here. However, I’ve gone from grumbling that we didn’t get over 300” and it didn’t squash the alders down to just wanting some snow, any snow, just make it white. This fall/early winter threw even that modest request for a loop. Now I just want cold, any cold, just keep it below 32 degrees so things freeze up. If things don’t freeze the snow doesn’t stick, areas can’t be accessed for recreation, it just sucks. Recreating outside in 33 degree freezing rain is not fun, particularly when there is no snow on the ground.

    I used to be skeptical about climate change but these past 6 winters have changed my view on it. If this isn’t the result of climate change than what else is causing it? I’ve lived in Valdez since ‘84 and have seen plenty of rainy spells during the winter. This weather pattern has been different than any I’ve lived through so far. It has me concerned about our future.

  6. Deep snow is bad for moose, rain not so much. With all the natural and healthy rebuilding fires and lack of deep snow moose will be healthy.

    • Healthy moose = many healthy calves = many happy bears = happy Enviros (they can ne hapoy can’t they) Win-Win!!
      Wait a minute, I was told….. ah forget it.

  7. Leo , I think the weather is great ! Now mars weather would suck . God hates dunleavey now that’s silly but funny ! Alaska is on the ring of fire – earthquakes volcanoes tsunamis! Don’t live near the coast unless you get off on those things! Rain ? This hasn’t been rain I’ve seen 4” of rain for days mid winter. That’s a mess . Ice – wind cold snow rain yeah it’s coastal alaska ! Wind – umm that’s Alaska – more coast line than continental United States our rivers are huge – Alaska’s shape just begs for wind like an arms wide penenisula . Our hills are steep our avalanches are dangerous the ground is treacherous for travel and that’s all part of why Alaskans over represent top performers in athletics competition- runners skiers fat bikers mushers trap shooters , ect ect we kick ass because we are tough badasses and the weather is awesome. I just got tougher cutting trees out of the way . Just stay out of the forest and off the slopes when it’s blowing and melting. Every time I slip on the ice I’m pretty sure I can skip yoga and dance class . The alledged bum weather is local most of state is great ! (plenty of exercise and brain growth) just tie off the kids and send em outside they will be smarter by end of the day 😉

    • Opinion,
      Alaskans may be tough and resilient (along with stubborn) but It is hard to say that we have the best weather (or conditions) for training.
      Many long distance and mountain athletes choose to live in places like Aspen or Mammoth Lakes since living at 8,000 ft elevation helps to build more red blood cells along with the 300 days of sunshine at those locations.
      The grand traverse “skimo” race finishes in Aspen each year and it is nearly 40 miles long with over 15K in elevation change…Mountaineers from around the globe travel to compete in this event.

      • Training isn’t all there is to performance. Mental combined with age trumps physical almost every time – Alaska toughens is up . We have longer and more prolific winter fat bike trails than anywhere else . Check Alaska’s stats carefully- only 700 k people then compare to other countries and we over represent top spots in skiing runners ect . When we compete head to head based on number of residents. Yeah Many countries beat us . Who won gold in trap ? Cogdaill Who is Americans top skier – kikkan , tommy moe ect, who wins the dog races . Who wins the iron dog .( Alaskans)sure some Europeans say oh I’m still a Scandinavian but where do they live . Alaska ! The best ones anyway. Break it down for yourself. Alaska only has a city worth of people yet we represent on world stage way over our population percentage. so don’t be so damn negative. Best weather ever ! Makes us tougher and the sun is beautiful!

    • Opinion,how bout some dates on SC AK 4”/day for days on end in month of December.Perhaps you mean the Outer Coast.World of difference

      • Dave you need to learn to read . Days does not equal days on end – nor did I say south central. Big difference in meaning but similar in experience as temperatures must be similar to create rain irregardless of where you are in Alaska in nov-December . I used to live in Valdez as a young kid . I saw rain and snow . A lot . That said ,weather station doesn’t report it has no bearing on local factual weather. Almost any coastal Alaska areas against the mountains near ocean or even matsu valley bethel area sees winter days that have hit 4 “ at times short term somewhere locally so a little rain within the 2 inch realm in anchorage or coastal areas is nothing to be concerned with. I love rain it fills our aqyuifers rivers lakes and makes Alaska Alaska . Sure I wish it was snow but wish in one hand piss in the other see which one fills up first . Enjoy what you get I say . Anchorage has been babied from harsh weather compared to many parts of the state except wind . It has gotten way worse wind . Go live on the Alaska chain or in the valley or bethel if you want crap weather – rain melting constant change – anchorage is pretty nice . Alaska is all coastal except a small interior part when you compare percentages of coastal to interior as compared to most of North America. We get rain and wind . We get massive chinooks . I’ve never seen a perfect even temp winter . It’s up and down up and down whenever I lived within 100 miles of the coast . When I lived Petersvile past trapper creek we would get occasionally extreme winter rain . What I’ve learned from Alaska is if you don’t like the weather wait a few minutes. Most of my knowledge comes pre internet . Anchorage got hit with some extreme winds in the late 70s – 80s . Looked like tornadoes came through. I was part of clean up crew . You are free to use your own time to research 4” rain dates over the years . For your info I’ve seen more . So 2” is nothing to complain about. Put on some studs and enjoy our beautiful state .

    • Opinion the focus of article is in fact SC,Anch hillside.And having graduated high school in Valdez,theres not much u can learn me up on when it comes to wind OR snow.
      Having fished both sides of the aleutians from ‘82-‘98,and the gulf from Cross Sound to Unimak Pass from ‘81-2000,Id say Ive seen my share of water.Whethor it was horizontal,vertical or merely beneath the hull.
      And the kind of rain we just had for december is far away from the norm.

      • Yes but was it biblical proportions? That was a mention in article. Norm I didn’t see . Now if norm was focus I might agree 2” is above though not by much for where I have lived . article strayed to penensula. Not restricted to south central nor just hillside. Though we can define it as such I guess if that’s your goalpost. I’m sure I can’t lesr you much on snow or rain as there is more information on internet. Now I believe angoon got 15 inches in 24 hours and you whine of 2” ? Perhaps you need to get back on your boat and remember a few storms of old . I gaurantee you saw some wind and rain with hell on aleutions . Now perhaps I could lesson you on reading and comprehension as I just did😉take no offense just enjoy the time donation.

      • that horizontal water at sea sucks even worse but warm horizontal water is better than freezing horizontal water. ice building in the rigging and gunwales makes me miss NOT ONE BIT being on the coastal waters of Alaska in winter.

  8. pretty clear god hates dunleavy.
    earthquakes
    fire
    BP leaves
    flooding in winter
    do we really want to see what other punishments god will throw at us

  9. What a timely article; coming just a couple of days after President Donald Trump explained to us that water that falls out of the sky “is called rain.” This Medred piece would have made zero sense if our “stable genius” (do stable geniuses really need to tell us they are stable geniuses?) of a President hadn’t educated me on this important topic.

  10. “Paybacks are a bitch after the warmest, friendliest summer on record in Anchorage…”
    Apparently you forgot that most of this summer the residents on SC were literally choking for months due to unhealthy air quality from epic wildfires burning everywhere from the Kenai to Fairbanks?
    Alaska is becoming “Unhosbitably” in more ways than one…and whether you blame aberrations in weather patterns on the HAARP or Climate Change really does not matter anymore since the end result is the same…

  11. “It was just a downpour,” said Kenai’s Rueben Hanke after road tripping west to east across the Peninsula. “I’ve never seen rain this heavy even in summer.”
    I thought the same thing yesterday on the southside.I left S.E years ago because I didn’t enjoy unpredictable winters.Should still be plenty of snow in Hatcher Pass,but Id be surprised if it didn’t rain there swell.
    Chin up, perhaps jan/feb will stay reliably cold

    • Dave,
      Hatcher’s will be unsafe for skiing and riding for quite a while after this rain and wind event.
      Here is a bit of the most recent avalanche forecast:
      “Several RED FLAGS currently exist in the snowpack including: unstable snow, recent avalanches, strong wind, rain on snow, and persistent slabs.
      IM weather station @ 3500′ reports that it has NOT been freezing overnight for 2 nights!
      Rain has been reported as high as 3500′, and maybe higher in elevation… New, large glide cracks have also been recently observed on the south side of Hatch.”

      https://hpavalanche.org/forecast/hatcherpass/

  12. If you need a winter vacation you might want to go to Duluth, MN. Nearly 3 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast of -15 tomorrow. Bold North!

    • Gern we have 3-4 feet or more of snow all over Alaska . The commenters are near sighted . Drive inland . Snow galore . Alaska is covered in snow ! South central and coastal areas small percentage. We always get crap weather near coasts .

      • Just last week I was enjoying -35 below with wind . 15 below that’s perfect unless you get good winds . Then it all changes .

  13. Whelp, we were told this Winter (along with the last 5) would be wetter and warmer due to the effects of el Nino. Guess reality “sucks” at times.

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