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Heat wave bakes Anchorage, Alaska, after winter that wouldn't end

Laurel Andrews
Alaskans enjoy near-record temperatures at Anchorage's Goose Lake on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo
A lifeguard on break from patrolling the swimmers at Goose Lake in Anchorage gets an ice cream from Bob Hickey's Alaskan Polar Bear Ice Cream truck. June 14, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Kids take a break from swimming at Goose Lake in Anchorage to get ice cream from Bob Hickey's Alaskan Polar Bear Ice Cream truck. June 14, 2013
Loren Holmes photo
Swimmers enjoy near-record temperatures at Mirror Lake in Peters Creek on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo
A kayaker enjoys warm temps and blue skies at Eklutna Lake on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo
Families enjoy near-record temps at Mirror Lake in Peters Creek on Friday, June 14, 2013. The heat wave is expected to last into next week.
Loren Holmes photo

Anchorage’s weather rollercoaster continues, as a heat wave bears down on Alaska’s largest city, just months after residents slogged through the longest snow season on record. The weather is great for residents looking to enjoy the outdoors -- as long as it’s not in a full-body banana suit.

By Thursday afternoon, Anchorage recorded 33 days above 70 degrees, the most since 2005. With more hot weather in the forecast, that number should grow and may approach the all-time record of 49 days.

Kincaid Park facility supervisor Scott O’Brien said there’s “definitely an increase” in the number of people recreating in the park. “We’ve probably seen 25 percent more than in years past,” he said.

He’s been enjoying the weather when he’s not working, but unfortunately, more people coming to the park means longer hours. “There’s a Catch-22 to working in the recreation field – it’s great, but you have to work when everyone else is out playing,” O’Brien said.

Cameron Carter, night manager at the Tastee Freez ice cream shop not far from Kincaid, said the warm weather has helped increase sales around 20 to 30 percent. Count him among those eating more ice cream, too.

Born and raised in Anchorage, Carter said he’s been enjoying the heat. “It’s a nice return to what summer used to be like here.”

Tastee Freez employees sometimes stand on the busy Jewel Lake-Raspberry Road intersection, in a full-body banana costume, to draw customers to the store. They also have a hamburger and milk shake costume. The costumes are “really really toasty – on a hot day it’ll kill you.” Carter said. “It’s more like a punishment thing here, if you don’t do well, we’ll send you outside.”

Target in South Anchorage had no air conditioners in stock on Wednesday. “This year it’s hard for us to even keep fans in stock,” said Ashley Hernandez, an employee who admitted she was enjoying the heat even if "it’s a little too hot” at times.

5 long years of cool summers

Anchorage’s heat wave comes on the heels of the longest snow season since 1917, with the first snow recorded Sept. 28, and the last of the season on May 18.

This summer’s balmy temperatures are also a major turnaround after five years of cool summer temperatures. Warm days nearly disappeared in 2008, with only two days above 70 degrees for the entire summer, the coldest summer in Anchorage since 1917, according to National Weather Service data.

A look at 70 degrees -- and how often it actually gets that warm in Anchorage:

  • In 2012, only nine days brought temperatures above 70, as rain and cloudy weather hung over the city following the snowiest winter in history;
  • Triple the sun this summer, so far, in summer 2013 compared to one year before;
  • Back in 2005, Anchorage baked with 42 days of heat above 70;
  • But the record stands from 2004. That year, Anchorage enjoyed 49 days of 70-degrees-plus weather. 

This year, Anchorage’s warm weather is due to both to cloudless days and wind direction, which on Wednesday was flowing from the Northwest. “Between clear skies and the wind direction coming off of land, we’re getting warmer weather” National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Pepe said.

Clouds are forecast to increase overnight, with isolated showers mid to lower 70s on Friday, which could help with some cooling. But "the rain ends on Friday," Pepe said, and temperatures are forecast to stay warm through the weekend.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com

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