Anchorage basks in balmy weather

Posted: Sunday, November 03, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- In a month that often sees skiing, Southcentral golfers are still on the links.

According to the National Weather Service, October ended Thursday as the warmest snow-free October on record.

Pussywillows and pansies are blooming, moose are browsing on green grass and blueberries are growing on the slopes up Arctic Valley.

The Chugach Range is topped with a light dusting of snow. Halloween trick-or-treating had the air of a night more like Arizona than Alaska.

All this adds up to a new page for the weather record books: The month that ended Thursday was the warmest snow-free October on record.

Because of the warm weather, snowmachiners face troublesome and potentially risky conditions when the snow finally arrives, said Steve Faunch, who sells snowmachines at Anchorage Yamaha.

Freezeup typically hardens Alaska waterways and lakes into safe winter trails. But if it snows before the water freezes, snowmachiners will encounter dangerous overflow all season, he said.

''As of right now, you have nothing froze up,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''You can't cross a swamp, you can't cross a river, you can't cross a lake, you can't go anywhere. Ninety-eight percent of this state is a swamp.''

Meteorologists said October in Anchorage was one of the warmest since 1916, with an average daily temperature of 41.2 degrees, an average high of 46.5 and an average low of 35.8. Rainfall exceeded 4 inches, more than 2 inches above normal.

This October was also only Anchorage's eighth since 1938 with absolutely no snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Hatcher Pass is snow-free to about 3,500 feet, the elevation of the visitor center at Independence Mine, said Rick McClure, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. At 4,000 feet, there's about 4 feet of snow.

In the Chugach, rains in mid-October melted snow that had started to pile up in late September at Indian Pass, McClure said.

Area ski resorts aren't sweating it quite yet.

At Alaska's biggest ski area, Alyeska Resort, snow starts at about 2,300 feet, the top of the tram leading up the mountain. And it's just a thin covering even there.

But mountain manager Larry Daniels is staying positive.

After all, this warm, wet weather resembles last December's climate around Christmas, and that soggy break in winter lasted only a short time before the weather turned colder and the skiing got good again, Daniels said.

''I'm just working on the premise that history tends to repeat itself,'' he said. ''Another week or so we oughta bank into a really nice weather pattern.''

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