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Sloppy weather updates: Big Lake sled dog race canceled; some Mat-Su schools closed

Tegan Hanlon
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
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

NOTE: This story has been updated with a new story here.

UPDATE 2 PM THURSDAY:

Fairbanks International Airport reopened its commercial runway at 1 p.m. after freezing rain iced the tarmac earlier in the day, said spokeswoman Angie Spear. 

Two Alaska Airlines flights and four Era Alaska flights had been canceled as of 1:14 p.m. People flying today are encouraged to check with their airline to ensure their flights are still on schedule, Spear said. 

The general aviation runway for small and personal aircrafts remains closed, she said. 

UPDATE 12:30 PM THURSDAY:

Organizers have canceled the Northern Lights 300  sled dog race slated to start Friday in Big Lake because of unfavorable weather and trail conditions, according to the race’s website

The 300-mile race trail begins in Big Lake, goes to Finger Lake and loops back around. It’s an Iditarod and Yukon Quest qualifier. 

UPDATE 11:45 AM THURSDAY:

Freezing rain iced roads and tangled transportation in Fairbanks on Thursday as warmer weather blasted usually frigid Interior Alaska.

The weather service issued a freezing rain advisory effective until 4 p.m. Thursday. Forecasters predict ice accumulation to amount to less than one-tenth of an inch — but just enough make roadways slick.

 The Fairbanks International Airport closed around 11 a.m. after pounding rain froze on runways, canceling two flights, said spokeswoman Angie Spear. 

She expects the airport to reopen around 1 p.m. after maintenance crews sand and remove ice from the runways.

Spear reminisced  temperatures dipping to 34 and 40 degrees below zero in Fairbanks just two weeks ago. On Thursday, shortly before noon, it was 34 degrees at the airport. 

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Matanuska-Sustina Borough School District closed some schools Thursday as water and mud pooled on streets and hampered buses, a district spokeswoman said.

Class is canceled at Glacier View, Trapper Creek, Talkeetna, Willow, Su Valley Jr./Sr. High, Houston Middle, Houston High and Big Lake schools. All other district schools are open, and the wrestling tournament at Houston Middle School will continue as scheduled, the district website said. 

The National Weather Service is forecasting yet another unusually warm and wet January day throughout Southcentral Alaska: 

Anchorage: 

The city should see isolated showers Thursday morning, forecasters said. High temperatures are predicted to hit the 40s, with winds between 10 and 25 mph. Wind gusts could reach up to 45 mph along Turnagain Arm and in higher elevations, the weather service said.

Girdwood:

Alyeska Ski Resort will open at 1 p.m. Thursday after warm weather closed the mountain for the past two days, said the resort’s information hotline.

The tram will begin running at 1 p.m. The Glacier Bowl Express quad and Chair 7 lifts will not be open all day, the website said.  

Matanuska Valley:

High temperatures may hit the 40s in Matanuska Valley, with rain diminishing to isolated showers in the morning and wind gusts between 10 and 25 mph, said the National Weather Service. 

Susitna Valley:

The weather service expects morning rain in the Sustina Valley, sometimes heavy, tapering to scattered showers by afternoon. High temperatures will be in the upper 30s and mid-40s, with variable winds up to 10 mph.

Kenai Peninsula:

An avalanche advisory for the Turnagain backcountry was bumped up from “considerable” to “high” danger Thursday, said the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center

The band of unseasonably warm air and long-lasting rain has destabilized the snow pack, making natural avalanches likely and human-triggered avalanches very likely, the advisory said.

“Dangerous avalanche conditions are the new normal until this storm system ceases and temperatures get below freezing,” the advisory said.

Avalanche forecaster Kevin Wright said he's observed a handful of natural avalanches in the mountains the past few days. On Wednesday, he didn't see any people at trail heads. 

"Given the way the rain is coming in, the enjoyment level is pretty low," he said. "It's just miserable." 

 

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

 

Alaska weather warnings and advisories
By TEGAN HANLON
Anchorage Daily News