The strange warm days of October in Southcentral Alaska have ended, and now it's colder than the inside of an icebox. But there are upsides to most meteorological phenomenon in the 49th state.
Big dumps of snow mean good skiing, and bitter cold sans snow means ice skating. The Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department says city lakes -- including ever-popular Westchester Lagoon, within walking distance of downtown Anchorage -- still don't have enough ice for safe skating. But Potter Marsh on the southern edge of Alaska's largest city is nicely frozen over. And Irene Lindquist, the trails technician, for the Chugach National Forest on the Kenai Peninsula reports phenomenal skating on Tern Lake. Tern Lake is the body of water -- now the sheet of ice -- at the confluence of the Seward and Sterling highways about 90 miles down the road from Anchorage. If you've ever driven past and thought about exploring there, now is the time. Strap on a pair of skates and go tour.
Conditions on local lakes can be checked here. The last report, posted Nov. 18, warns of "dangerous thin ice" at every lake in Alaska's largest city – from Cheney Lake to Westchester Lagoon. However, a handful of skaters ignored those warnings over the weekend -- and the shallower water of Potter Marsh is typically safer.
With temperatures below zero in significant portions of Anchorage overnight and frigid temperatures predicted for at least a couple more days, the lakes should add ice.
Then again, the skating could be snowed under or rained out by the weekend, depending what the weather system moving in from the southwest does. It could bring snow or freezing rain likely to roughen skating surfaces. The National Weather Service is forecasting that "Confidence is increasing that warmer air aloft will overspread cold air at the surface from the western Kenai Peninsula through the Anchorage Bowl ... Matanuska Valley ... and southern Susitna Valley. The threat for freezing rain will increase in these areas late Thursday night into Friday. Tuesday's forecast said temperatures are expected to climb high enough to bring rain to coastal communities like Seward as well.
If that happens, the slip-sliding on local roads is likely to prove as exciting as that on ponds.
Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com