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In Alaska, May showers bring snow flakes

Jill Burke

If you’re among the Alaskans motivated by the sunny final week of April to launch familiar spring rituals, waking up Saturday morning may have dampened your soul. Perhaps some of us cleaned up the garden beds, excavated a winter's worth of dog poop from the back yard, and tidied up the home during the sunny days earlier this week,only to gaze out onto the lawn May 4 to see a blanket of snow with more flakes descending from cloudy skies above.

Even the U.S. National Weather Service, Alaska, couldn't refrain from putting the depressing weather in context. “If you're keeping track, today's snow on May 4th makes nine consecutive months that the Anchorage area has seen accumulating snow,” it posted Saturday morning to its Facebook followers.

This follows the revelation a few days ago that April 2013 was one of the coldest Aprils in Alaska over the last 74 years. For those living in the state's Interior, it was the coldest since 1924 – or the chilliest spring month in 89 years.

Organizers of the Nenana Ice Classic continued their wait for signs of breakup, too. Standing proud and firm in the middle of the Tanana River in a webcam photo on the organization’s website is the famous black-and-white tripod. Not a hint of liquid water exists near the riverbank. Of the 24 days between mid-April and mid-May that have witnessed the Tanana River ice go out in past years, half have already passed. And as of May 2, nearly 37 inches of ice was measured on the river.

For many of us, May begins the time of year when we instinctively expect liquid precipitation. We long for it. With so much daylight beckoning after a dark winter, rain seems fitting – the magic ingredient that will help our plants rocket into summer, greening and growing as the days grow longer and warmer.

But the National Weather Service advised early Saturday that the snow showers would continue, adding up to three inches of accumulation at higher elevations.

Making for an even sloppier weekend? The Saturday snowfall would be interrupted by rain in the afternoon. Saturday night and into Sunday morning, the National Weather Service expects precipitation to continue, with a chance of snow returning after midnight. If the forecast is accurate, Anchorage residents will see the sun for at least a few hours Sunday morning before clouds return.

Alaska's big-city dwellers who've had enough of winter can thank themselves they're not hunkered down in Alaska's interior. North of Anchorage and closer to the Canadian border, towns like Tok and Eagle are in a region where a winter storm warning is in effect until noon Sunday. Snow, blowing snow and freezing rain are expected tonight throughout the upper Tanana Valley and an area known as Fortymile country. 

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com