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How long will this cool, wet weather last? Plus, what it means for Southcentral Alaska fire conditions

  • Author: Jeff Parrott
  • Updated: July 25, 2019
  • Published July 24, 2019

After weeks of hot, dry weather, rain arrived in Anchorage this week along with lower temperatures and clearer air.

Conditions around Anchorage should remain cool and wet through the weekend, breaking up an unusually steamy summer, the National Weather Service said.

“Typically, we will have systems that move from west to east, from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to the Gulf of Alaska, which places Southcentral in a favorable pattern for periods of showers and generally cloudy and cooler conditions,” Patrick Doll, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said Wednesday.

Earlier this month, Anchorage saw stretches of record high temperatures and dry conditions that helped fuel multiple wildfires in Southcentral Alaska, including the 102,229-acre Swan Lake Fire on the Kenai Peninsula. The forecast this week calls for highs in the upper 60s and lows in the mid-50s.

From Tuesday through early Wednesday afternoon, Anchorage received 0.35 inches of rain, nearly three times the amount of rain recorded since June 1.

“We only had 5.8% of normal rain volume for July 1 through 23,” Doll said.

Anchorage may get more rain later this week when a front rolls in Thursday night into Friday, and during an “upper-level disturbance” Friday night into Saturday, Doll said. He did warn that Anchorage could see rain at any time, but the chance of that was “generally low.”

The rain, however, was not enough for Anchorage fire officials to lift the municipality’s burn ban.

Anchorage Fire Marshal Cleo Hill said the rain was very helpful, but it did not soak deep enough into the ground to warrant lifting the ban.

“Two or three days of good soaking rain, and there is a huge possibility of the ban being lifted,” said Hill. But forecasters are not calling for that much rain, she said.

The municipal burn ban includes open fires, like campfires and homemade burn pits, while barbecue grills and enclosed pellet grills are still allowed.

Meanwhile, the rain has improved fire conditions on the Kenai Peninsula, and federal agencies have lifted all campfire and fire restrictions in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Kenai Fjords National Park and Preserve and Chugach National Forest lands on the Peninsula.

In Anchorage, smoke from the Sterling-area Swan Lake Fire — which has periodically drifted into the city, resulting in “moderate” to “unhealthy” air quality — also seemed to diminish with the rain. On Wednesday, the municipality reported “good” air quality for the first time since July 17.