Freezing Rain…Alaska Style

I just returned from attempting to walk the dogs and we could only manage 42 minutes not because of the temperature or snow but because of the glaze of ice that’s covering almost everything!  There’s a quarter-inch of frozen glaze atop the remaining foot of now dense, heavy snow pack and even the plowed roads have a coating of ice.  The latter are extremely slippery, at least when on foot or paw, because we received another tenth of an inch or so of snow overnight.  I was really struggling while trying to navigate the frequent rises and dips and often ended up wading through the foot of snow on the sides of the inclines and declines because at least there I had traction!  I was almost continuously out of breath from laughing at the dogs as they slipped, skidded and did face plants on an ongoing basis.  I was also twice forced to stop, corral Qanuk, force him to lie down and remove pieces of the frozen snow that had managed to wedge themselves between his pads and caused him to limp.  Thankfully they were not sharp enough to cut open his pads…

I’m familiar with freezing rain from the lower 48; in general I’ve seen my share in places like Madison (WI), Cincinnati (OH), Chicago (IL) and Dearborn (MI).  And it was all pretty much the same in character; very light rain drops or partially frozen pellets falling at a rate just over a drizzle.  However, having now dealt with two extended periods of Alaskan freezing rain I can definitely state like so many other things its just different up here.  During most of the Alaskan freezing rain events I’ve witnessed the precipitation is liquid to almost graupel-like in nature but it’s falling at a rate akin to a rain shower.  When it does this it takes very little time to lay down a substantial coating of the ice.  A couple of weeks back I had the ‘pleasure’ of driving the Spur during such an episode of freezing rain and it was coming down so hard as to be almost blinding.  Under such conditions even running one’s windshield wipers on high-speed is insufficient to keep the glass clear.  I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that Alaska does freezing rain in a way that surpasses what I’d seen in the lower 48; this state is indeed a magnet for extremes in most things.  But then again, this is part of the magic and the allure of Alaska for me!

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Icy stretch of East Barge Drive running up Bonanza Hill; even the dogs wanted no part of trying to walk this challenge!

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