Chilly weather won’t let up anytime soon

March into more cold

Posted: Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The bitter cold that has had Kenai Peninsula residents reaching for their heaviest overcoats and turned iced-up parking lots into oil pan-bashing obstacle courses over the past several weeks might ease slightly in the next few days, but the frigid weather is likely to continue into the latter part of March.

About the only saving grace has been that glorious sunshine. Only now, the National Weather Service is predicting a slight warming trend beginning later this week that could push temperatures into relatively balmy 30s by Friday, and produce some clouds and snow.

We’re likely to pay for the change, too. High winds gusting to 45 mph were expected to begin ripping across the western Kenai Peninsula on Monday and continue into Wednesday. Wind chill factors could drop overnight temperatures to as low as minus 30, the weather service said.

If snow showers appear Wednesday, Thursday and through Friday, as predicted, they’ll be welcome news to skiers contending with boilerplate conditions on local trails.

For those who are simply tired of the cold, it’s time to face facts — once again, like every March — that it may be getting lighter, but it’s still winter in Alaska, and will be until the mud comes.

“We’re really not expecting a big change. The same general weather pattern in place for at least a month will hang around for the next week or so,” said Todd Foisy, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. “It’s going to stay cold and windy.”

That’s thanks to a high-pressure zone over the Bering Sea and a low-pressure zone over the Gulf of Alaska that have combined to dump frigid Interior air onto Southcentral Alaska.

“As a result, it’s been cold. And dry,” Foisy said.

Weather patterns don’t last forever, and neither will this one.

“Back in November it was like this for the whole month,” Foisy said. “Normally, patterns don’t last too long. Exactly when this one will end is really, really tough to call. Through at least mid-March it will stay like this overall.”

For skiers and skaters spending an afternoon in the sun, a warm home and a cup of hot soup are only a short distance away. Not so for the Iditarod contenders now facing bitter conditions on their way to Nome.

Foisy said an advisory had been issued for Rainy Pass out to McGrath where wind chill is expected to drive air temperatures to minus 45 or minus 50.

“It’s going to stay really cold for the rest of the race,” he said. “And windy. The dogs will probably like it, but it’s not as easy for the mushers.”

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