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Early thaw: Soft ice warnings, closures and cancellations

Tegan Hanlon
A young moose walks across a water and slush covered street in the Turnagain neighborhood of west Anchorage on Thursday afternoon, January 23, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
Doug Iverson negotiates a large puddle while driving on East 16th Avenue on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. Iverson has lived in the Airport Heights subdivision of Anchorage since 1958 and said the road always floods in the Spring, but "it's the worst I've ever seen."
Bill Roth
Rain and unseasonably warm weather continue to destabilize the snowpack in the Turnagain area backcountry, triggering avalanches. Wendy Wagner, forecaster for Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, checks out a slide on Tincan Mountain on Saturday, January 18, 2014.
Kevin Wright
The Chugach Mountains are reflected in the Standing water on the Lake Hood Float Plane Base in west Anchorage on Thursday afternoon, January 23, 2013.
Bob Hallinen
Tammy Easley chips ice off of her driveway on Knik street in the Turnagain neighborhood of west Anchorage on Thursday afternoon, January 23, 2013.
Bob Hallinen

Update  2:30 p.m. Friday

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is warning residents to tread carefully near thawing lakes Friday.

Emergency responders have been advised to not drive on Big Lake,  said a statement posted by the borough on its Facebook page. 

"Ice conditions are deteriorating rapidly on surrounding lakes with soft ice underlying standing water on main and peripheral ice roads," it said. 

Update 12:15 p.m. Friday

The Birch Hill Ski and Snowboard area and Fischer Skeet Range at Fort Wainwright are closed Friday because of unfavorable weather conditions, said a statement on the area's Facebook page. 

Update 8:15 a.m. Friday

Icy roads in Fairbanks have led to the cancellation of classes Friday at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, closed schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and limited school bus transportation in the Mat-Su Borough.  

Classes at UAF and the university's Community and Technical College locations in both Fairbanks and North Pole were called off, but university offices remain open, the university's website said. 

"Those employees who can safely travel should come to work," said a statement on the website. "Supervisors should be very flexible with employees today and make accommodations for those who need extra time to travel to and from campus." 

UAF has extended its fee payment deadline to Monday at 5 p.m. 

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District has cancelled both school and all school-related activities "due to extremely hazardous and impassable road conditions," said the district website.

All Matanuska-Sustina Borough School District schools are open Friday, but transportation is limited at Trapper Creek Elementary, Talkeetna Elementary, Su Valley Jr. and Sr. High and Willow Elementary schools, said the district's website.

Buses will pick students up at stops on the Parks Highway, Talkeetna Spur Road, Hatcher Pass Road and Petersville Road only. 

"The buses for Willow students living in the Caswell or Hidden Hills areas will be up only at the Parks Hwy./Hidden Hills' stops," said a statement on the website. "Buses will not be traveling into the Caswell Lakes area." 

A freezing rain advisory remains in affect for much of central Alaska Friday until varying times in the day, said the National Weather Service. 

The advisory in Fairbanks ends at noon. Forecasters predict periods of light freezing rain in the city this morning shifting to flurries by noon with highs in the upper 30s, said the weather service.

Anchorage may see light rain in the morning and partly sunny skies by the afternoon. Highs will hover in the mid 40s and wind gusts may hit 35 mph in Anchorage and up to 60 mph along Turnagain Arm and in higher elevations, said the weather service. 

ORIGINAL STORY:

Southcentral Alaska's off-kilter winter continued Thursday and showed no signs of letting up anytime soon, with above-freezing temperatures destabilizing snow packs and cancelling sled dog races and classes.

The thermometer hit 48 degrees in Anchorage, tying it with 1977 for the record high for Jan. 23.

Southerly winds shooting straight into Southcentral Alaska from the Gulf of Alaska are responsible for unseasonably warm temperatures across much of the state for at least a week.

"This is a very unusual pattern," said Jason Ahsenmacher, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. "Some people are happy, some people aren't."

In Fairbanks, where the average high for the date was 1 degree above zero, the high Thursday was 34. Pounding rain replaced snowfall. Iced-over surfaces tangled traffic and briefly closed the Fairbanks International Airport.

Temperatures in Southcentral may cool down by midweek next week. But Ahsenmacher was careful to note that cooler weather will still be warmer than normal.

"I think that the big story is that even as we do cool down, it's not going to be a significant cool down," he said. "The big story is I don't see any big, wintry threats through next weekend."

But the Anchorage area should dry out by next week, he said.

This week, things have just been wet -- and icy. The out-of-season melt pooled water and mud on local roads.

The Matanuska-Sustina Borough School District closed some schools Thursday because of slushy condition. Traffic was rerouted from roads with standing water.

Denali National Park and Preserve closed the 1980 park additions north of the Alaska Range to snowmachiners Thursday until more snow falls.

Organizers cancelled the Northern Lights 300 dog sled race scheduled to start Friday in Big Lake. More than 50 mushers were signed up to travel the 300-mile route out to Finger Lake and back. The planning was nearly complete and 150 bales of hay, along with food, were transported to the turnaround, said Sue Allen, race manager.

Deteriorating weather and melting ice on route waterways compromised the annual event that's a qualifier for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest.

"It's more of a hassle to undo than it is to do," Allen said. "And it certainly isn't as fun to undo."

High temperatures in a few Outside cities not as warm as Anchorage on Thursday:

Abilene, TX -- 34 degrees

 Albany, NY -- 16 degrees

 Charleston, SC -- 47 degrees

 Chicago -- 10 degrees

 Cincinnati -- 8 degrees

 Baltimore, MD -- 24 degrees

 Billings, Montana -- 27 degrees

 Boise, Idaho -- 30 degrees

 Boston -- 22 degrees

 New York City -- 19 degrees

 Pittsburgh -- 13 degrees

 Washington, D.C. -- 28 degrees

 (Anchorage's temperature peaked, as in Savannah, Ga., at 48 degrees )

 Information from: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/

 

Alaska weather warnings and advisories
By TEGAN HANLON
thanlon@adn.com