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Cold hovers over Interior as winter refuses to leave Alaska

Laurel Andrews
A Fairbanks resident skis at Moose Mountain in Fairbanks on May 8. Courtesy Dave Payer

Where’s spring? A blast of cold Arctic air sweeping across Interior Alaska delivered record lows Monday and Tuesday morning, while much of Northern and Eastern Interior Alaska remained under winter weather advisories -- and snow may even grace the Southcentral city of Anchorage over the weekend.

Fairbanks just shivered through a frigid April; so far, May so far isn't feeling much warmer. Temperatures finally crested 50 degrees last week -- the warmest weather since October -- but with 10 inches of snow still on the ground at the Fairbanks International Airport on Thursday.

And now, the chill continues: On Monday morning, Fairbanks hit a record low temperature of 22 degrees at the airport, breaking the record of 26 degrees set in 1928.

Monday’s high temperature, in the mid-30s, is the coldest for May 13, ever, for Fairbanks, said Scott Berg, a  forecaster with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

Chilling low temperatures were measured across the Interior Monday morning, including:

•Killik Pass hit 6 below zero
•Atigun Pass at 5 below zero
•Norutak Lake at 2 below
•Chandalar Shelf DOT at 2 above
•Bettles at 10 above, breaking the record of 20 above set in 2007
•Tanana at 16 above
•Nenana at 19 above
•Eielson Air Force Base at 22 above, breaking the record of 26 above set in 1965

Winds gusting to 25 miles per hour in mountain passes of the Brooks Range also stirred up wind chills approaching 30 below zero.

It looks like the cold will continue, at least to the near future. “We’re going to see cold temperatures well below normal for the next 2-3 days,” said Berg.

Tuesday’s low record in Fairbanks is 21 degrees; Berg predicted the temperature would “probably going to get pretty close” to that. One station at the UAF College Observatory recorded at 21 Tuesday morning. Tuesday's forecast showed highs in the lower 40s. 

There were more chilly temps on Tuesday morning, including 10 below at Atigun Pass and a mere 6 above at Shungnak. Bettles was one degree warmer than Monday at 11 degrees.

“We keep getting these waves of Arctic air,” he said. Wednesday is forecast to be “slightly warmer,” followed by a Thursday that is “a little bit warmer,” Berg said.

But temperatures are forecast to flatten out toward the end of the week, with highs in the mid-50s. Significant warming isn’t forecast until early next week, Berg said -- but he also noted that the forecast models aren’t always right.

Meanwhile, other parts in northerly latitudes across Alaska have lost hope that winter may end before it begins, again. The Northwest Brooks Range, Northeast Brooks Range, Eastern Alaska Range and Upper Tanana Valley are all under winter storm warnings until Tuesday, while the Deltana and Tanana Flats and the Southeast Brooks Range Chandalar Lake region are both seeing winter advisories with forecasts of snow accumulation up to 4 inches.

The Alaska Range east of the Richardson Highway could see significant snowfall this week; the American summit could see anywhere from 8 to 12 inches, Berg said.

And if you thought Anchorage was spared ... you may be out of luck.

The NWS forecast shows cold temperatures which could bring a mix of snow and rain to Alaska’s largest city later this week, with lows of 25 degrees and highs of 45 degrees.

Joint-Base Elmendorf Richardson writes on its Facebook page, “The next system drops down from the North Slope bringing persistent cool temperatures and rain late Thursday and Friday. As the center of the storm tracks through our area, a reinforcing shot of cold air will plunge down from the North which could bring a mix of rain and snow Saturday.” 

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com