Autumn precipitation offers relief from long Southeast Alaska drought

JUNEAU - A warm, wet autumn has helped relieve a long period of drought in Southeast Alaska, scientists said.

Heavy rainfall pushed the region over its annual average by 13 inches, The Juneau Empire reported Monday.

There has been a dramatic increase in precipitation in the past two months, U.S. Department of Agriculture climate meteorologist Brad Rippey said.

November has been a particularly good month for rainfall in Southeast Alaska due to conditions at sea that have caused precipitation, Rippey said.

"The water across most of the northern Pacific has turned very warm in recent months," Rippey said. "It's been lashing southeastern Alaska with some pretty good storms."

Some places received 20 to 40 inches of rain in the last 30 days, which removed the drought designation for many areas outside Juneau, he said.

"For Alaska, one of the big things is hydroelectric power generation," Rippey said.

The Juneau region experienced a rainfall deficit of more than 30 inches in recent years and another wet season may be required to restore balance, Alaska Electric Light & Power engineer Bryan Farrell said.

Precipitation will need to fall as rain and refill reservoirs rather than as snow that accumulates above the frost line, which will not replenish the region's lakes, Farrell said.

"It's really going to be a function of precipitation and temperature," Farrell said.

Alaska Electric Light & Power will decide whether to restore power to interruptible customers on a month-by-month basis, but has not yet made that decision, Farrell said.

Interruptible power sales help reduce costs for other customers, the utility said.