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Alaska Beat

Warm, windy winter wallops Whittier, which expects wacky weather

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published January 20, 2013

It's been a wacky winter throughout much of southcentral Alaska – sub-zero cold follow by a rainy heat wave. But few places are as acquainted with extremes as Whittier, the gateway town to Prince William Sound, according to Ken Smith of the Turnagain Times.

"We've had 108 inches of snow since Oct. 12, and a year ago we had 233 inches of snow at this time on Jan. 11," said Babs Reynolds, who worked the Whittier weather station for 25 years until it closed last year and she continued informally.

But after two weeks of temperatures into the mid-40s, "We've got almost nothing left of snow," Reynolds acknowledged.

Then there are the winds. A 65-foot section of the city's passenger dock near the Inn at Whittier was damaged by gusts up 60 mph.

"The wind was totally unsafe until Jan. 10," Whittier Harbormaster Sue Miller told the Turnagain Times. Two dozen sheets of metal roofing blew off a trailer, too. "Sheets were ripping down the road in the wind. They looked like they wanted to go to Cordova."

It's all part of the quirky appeal of a Prince William Sound town surrounded by tall mountains.

"If you've lived here very long, you know there's no other weather like Whittier," Reynolds said. "Girdwood weather is nothing like Whittier's weather. It's usually warmer here than it is in Girdwood, and we get more wind. A lot of the Southeast weather sweeps into here and stops at the mountains. We call it the 'Pineapple Express' that comes up from Hawaii and hits the mountains and doesn't go over the top."

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