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‘Instant’ Summer Arriving in Much of Alaska

May 30, 2013 by   - () Leave a Comment

Barely two weeks ago, snows blanketed much of Alaska. Temperatures and moods plummeted — from south-central, to the Interior, to the Bering Sea coast.

Fast-forward: On Wednesday (May 29), sun seekers pushed outside en masse, lured to local lakes, parks and rivers by near-record heat.

No one is grumbling about the extremes. Complaints, it seems, melted away with the snow, Alaska Dispatch reported.

In Anchorage, the official temperature measured at the National Weather Service’s Sand Lake offices topped out at 73 degrees Wednesday afternoon, 2 degrees shy of the record high for May 29, set in 2010. Residents of the Interior, parts of the Kenai Peninsula and the Mat-Su saw the mercury climb into the 80s Wednesday.

Few visitors to Anchorage-area lakes seemed to care about the brush with a record temperature. “I am from North Carolina, and this would be a nice, spring day,” said Adam Jen. He was paralyzed from the waist down after an ATV accident in 2009. On Wednesday, Jen was sitting in his wheelchair along the shore of Cheney Lake in Anchorage, casting for freshly stocked rainbow trout. He was hot, but he wasn’t complaining. “At least there is no humidity,” he said.

Others took a more local view. “I am just happy to be outside, getting some vitamin D — besides, you never know how long it will last. There is rain in the forecast for later in the week,” said Jennifer Roberts, a lifelong Alaskan, who was buying ice cream for her son after a workout. Ice cream, long a salve for the winter weary in Alaska, is in high demand at Goose Lake with families lined up to cool their palates.

Shock of heat

Alaska homes, like its people, are built to thrive in winter. Triple-pane windows are standard in most new construction, but air-conditioning is rare. Despite being a little overheated, most people aren’t complaining about sweaty shirts and the return of 35 species of mosquito that thrive during the summer.

But even unrelenting sunshine comes with a dark side. The heat brought major flooding to communities along the Yukon River. Wildfire dangers. A late winter — even by Alaska standards — left the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) at once battling snow in some places, snowmelt elsewhere.

Along the summer-popular Denali Highway paralleling the south side of the Alaska Range mountains for 135 miles from Cantwell to Paxson some 200 miles north of Anchorage, BLM reports the entrances to the Brushkana Creek, Tangle Lakes and Paxson Lake campgrounds “remain plugged with snow,” and warned of possible “fresh snow June 1 weekend near Paxson.”

Needless to say, the weather has been a bit schizophrenic. It was 77 in Paxson on Wednesday. Campgrounds across the Interior were dealing with hoards of people and flooding waters. The Sourdough Campground along the Richardson Highway north of Glennallen is open, but wet from a Gulkana River flood, while the boat launch on the river remains cloaked in ice sheets. The BLM has closed the ramp to boat launching. So forget about a riverboat outing or fishing trip on the Gulkana.

Far north, the BLM reports the upper reaches of the Birch Creek Wild and Scenic River remain frozen. The Mount Prindle and Ophir Creek campgrounds and the Quartz Creek Trail in the White Mountains National Recreation Area north of Fairbanks are inaccessible because of a washed out bridge on Nome Creek Road.

 

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