Ice still 44 inches thick for Nenana Ice Classic

Posted: Friday, April 26, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Bad news for people who bought April guesses in the Nenana Ice Classic: The Tanana River is showing no sign of budging.

Breakup on the Tanana River is expected to occur later than usual this year and the jackpot is expected to be smaller for the Ice Classic, the annual guessing game for the Tanana River breakup.

With an unseasonably cold April, the river ice remains solid. The ice was still 44 inches thick when official Ice Classic measurer Jeff Mayrand drilled through it Thursday morning.

Last year, the ice was only 33 inches thick on April 16, the last date it was considered safe to check. The tripod didn't fall until May 8, three weeks later.

Still, ice thickness isn't necessarily a surefire indicator of when breakup will occur. In 1994, for example, the ice was measured 46 inches on April 22 and went out just a week later on April 29, an average breakup. In 1992, the ice was 47 inches on April 22 and didn't go out until May 14, one of the latest breakups on record.

The latest breakup on record is 11:41 a.m. on May 20, 1964.

The Ice Classic is to Alaska what the lottery is to the Lower 48. For $2 a ticket people guess the exact date and time that the ice will go out in the Tanana River at Nenana, 55 miles south of Fairbanks. The winning time is determined by a tripwire that runs from a wooden tripod set up on the ice to a clock in a watchtower on shore.

When the tripod moves 100 feet, the wire stops the clock. But officials haven't even connected the tripwire from the tripod to the clock, and it will probably be at least another week before a rotating crew of three watchmen begins a 24-hour vigil of the tripod.

Classic organizers say the jackpot will be a bit smaller than the $308,000 paid out last year, when eight people shared the prize.

''Our jackpot probably won't be $300,000 this year,'' Ice Classic manager Cherri Forness told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The official jackpot will be announced next week. It would be the first time since 1999 that the jackpot failed to reach $300,000. The record payout was $335,000 in 2000.



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