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
- Ya, can’t ski in a hurricane; no, ya can’t ski in a hurricane even if you can find snow.
- Gore-tex is only rated to 40 psi.
- 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.)
- “I’m Dreaming of a Wet Christmas” just doesn’t have the right ring to it.
- Packrafting is supposed to be a summer, backcountry activity; not a winter, urban street activity.
- 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!)
- 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.
- You can’t really chase the rambunctious, home-from-school kids outside to play in this weather.
- Dark skies and bare ground make the long dark of the Alaska December even longer and darker.
- 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.