Peninsula residents chip away at snowfall

Dolly Farnsworth has seen quite a few cold, harsh and snowy winters since she and her family homesteaded to the area in 1948.

 

The 89-year-old Soldotna resident said 138 inches of snow fell during her first winter on the Kenai Peninsula.

Winter life was a little bit tougher in those days, she said.

"We really had the snow that year," she said Saturday. "When we were on the beach we had to use snow to melt for our water because we didn't have a well because it was our first year on that fishing site. I remember that I could still go under the trees and gather snow on May 21, which was my husband's birthday. I never forgot that."

Although a few other winters come to mind, Farnsworth said this winter has been one of the snowiest she could remember.

"This snow is pretty bad," she said with a laugh.

Dan Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage agreed.

As of Friday evening, with snowflakes falling outside, Peterson said Anchorage was 3.2 inches away from breaking the 1954-1955 record of 132.6 inches.

"If we are at this level in Anchorage, I'm sure you are not far off from that," he said.

Peterson said there are no official snow records kept for the Kenai and Soldotna area.

A Friday evening snowfall left 2 to 5 inches of fresh snow around the area but temperatures rose to above freezing during the day Saturday and Sunday. Much of the same -- freezing nights followed by high 30-degree days -- will likely be the norm for a while, Peterson said.
"It's going to be sloppy," he said.

However, Peterson wouldn't venture a guess as to if this was one of the area's last snow storms.

"Remember April?" he said with a laugh. "I'm not going out on a limb that far."

He said in all likelihood the area would see one or two more "blasts of it" before old man winter retreats. But the good news is that just as this latest snow came and left quickly, so will other systems, Peterson said.

"These are not huge storms that just sit there and spin for days," he said. "You can see it on satellite  -- it's cooking through pretty quick. Of course there is one behind that, but it doesn't look like we are going to get much out of that one."

With massive snowfalls around the state, Peterson said breakup would also be one to remember.

"If it goes slow, maybe it will be OK, but if it gets warm and goes at once, man, we're in trouble," he said.

As usual, flooding is expected, he said.

"Somewhere -- every spring," he said. "Yeah, I'm sure it's going to be another one of those."

Forecasting the severity of breakup and flooding isn't easy, he said.

"It is how warm and what kind of winds and how much sun we are going to get and all those variables are thrown in there," he said. "If it's cloudy and we get no sun, then it is going to go slow."

Farnsworth said she's learned that tough winters always make the summers that much better.

"I can't wait for April to start," she said.

But even though this winter has been snowy, she said she could easily remember spats of icy weather that made living difficult -- even just the walk from the garage to the house.

"I can remember walking from there to the house and it would be 48 below," she said. "We had some real cold winters. I can remember one time, and that was in '72, that my daughter blew a breaker switch for the electricity in the house as she was using a sewing machine and when I got home half of the house was frozen."

Three straight weeks of 35 below -- as one winter brought later -- didn't make the living inside a wooden cabin easy either, she said.

"My husband would stay up at night to keep the stove going," she said. "He would sleep during the day and I would keep the fires going during the day. We had some rough times, I'll tell you."

Brian Smith can be reached at brian.smith@peninsulaclarion.com.

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