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Rain is in the forecast for Southcentral Alaska, but not enough to put out wildfires

  • Author: Annie Zak
  • Updated: August 31
  • Published August 29

A bicyclist rides past a lawn sprinkler at the Z.J. Loussac Public Library on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019. Parts of Southcentral Alaska are experiencing an extreme drought this summer according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and is on track to being the driest ever recorded. Anchorage has recorded less than an inch of rainfall since June 1 and only 1/100th of an inch of rain so far in August. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Rain is in the forecast for parts of Southcentral Alaska, including the area of the Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula, but it won’t be enough to extinguish that blaze or others in the region.

Two fronts moving toward the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage are expected to bring rain starting Friday, with precipitation expected Saturday and Sunday as well, according to the National Weather Service.

The first round of rain is expected Friday afternoon on the Kenai Peninsula, heaviest along the Gulf of Alaska side, and early Saturday in the Anchorage area.

The second round, expected Sunday, will bring better chances of rain for all of Southcentral, the weather service said.

The rain is badly needed at a time when parts of the area are in extreme drought and fire danger is high. But the amount in the forecast won’t be what Southcentral usually sees this time of year, said Sam Shea, a weather service meteorologist in Anchorage.

“Unfortunately, not even going to be close,” he said.

August and September are usually two of the wettest months of the year for Southcentral.

“If we end up getting a tenth of an inch of rain for the Anchorage area through the weekend, I would consider us lucky,” Shea said.

Dried grass on a Point Woronzof bluff overlooking the Anchorage skyline on Monday, Aug. 28, 2019. Anchorage is experiencing a drought with only 1/100th of an inch of rain recorded so far in August. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Anchorage has seen a measurable rain only once in August. On Sunday, the National Weather Service measured 0.01 inches of rain at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

“And that’s been the total for the month,” said Lucas Boyer, weather service meteorologist.

Boyer said he was “reasonably confident” that this will be Anchorage’s driest August on record.

“We would need to pick up .33 inches on Friday and Saturday,” an unlikely prospect, he said.

While rain will help firefighting efforts on the 160,033-acre Swan Lake fire and the McKinley and Deshka Landing fires near Willow, it likely won’t be enough to put them out.

“I’m very confident we’re going to see some rain in here,” weather service meteorologist Jeff Tonkin said Wednesday night at a community meeting in Cooper Landing. “Maybe not a lot, probably not enough to put this fire out, but it should do a nice little dent in what’s happening.”

People in Cooper Landing remained under notice Thursday to be prepared to evacuate quickly. Travel was still not advised on a stretch of the Sterling Highway between Sterling and the Seward Highway junction, said Bud Sexton, a spokesman with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.

Wildfire smoke on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Susitna and Copper River valleys has degraded air quality. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued another air quality advisory for those areas on Wednesday.

ADN reporter Jeff Parrott contributed to this article.

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