In what I hope is a harbinger of a cold, snowy winter in semi-rural south central Alaska we saw our first snowfall from Thursday afternoon (October 20th) into early Friday morning. Although I observed just 1.75″ of uncharacteristically heavy, wet snow other areas to the south and east saw anywhere from 3″ to 9″ in the Hatcher Pass area. The SWE of the snow measured 1″ of liquid water producing 7.29″ of snow; we normally see 1″ of liquid water yielding between 12″ and 30″ of snow. However, this is not surprising given the temperature stayed a degree or two above freezing across Thursday into very early Friday morning and we saw sleet and freezing rain mixing with the snow late Thursday afternoon. The snow remains on the trees and ground as of Saturday morning but we are also seeing moderate (13-18 mph) north breezes so before long the trees will lose their snowy covering.
Here are a couple of images taken from my second floor Friday morning:
Looking west at a portion of my ‘back yard’ showing the driveway and weather station sensors Friday (10/21/16) morning
Looking ENE from one of my ‘spare’ bedrooms on Friday (10/21/16) morning; this is my ‘front yard’
Although it is New Year’s Day, at least in most of the world, this will not be a ‘typical’ offering looking back across 2014 or creating lists based on last year or even a bucket list of things to do across the upcoming year. No, this is once again based upon the weather and some surprising results of the continued warmth. Nothing has changed since my last piece decrying the lack of normal temps and especially the extremely dry conditions; well…except for yesterday’s run of above freezing temps – 22 hours in all – and 24 hours of very light drizzle randomly mixing with sleet. This shrunk our already pitifully small 14” snow pack to just 9.5” as of 07:00 AKST this morning. In addition I recorded 0.24” of water virtually all of which came from the aforementioned drizzle and sleet.
But here is the gist of this posting:
January 1, 2015 snow overhang as seen from second floor window
This image was taken out a second story window just an hour ago and shows a large section of saturated snow getting ready to fall from the roof. This process has been ongoing starting yesterday afternoon and continuing overnight much to the chagrin of Qanuk, my ever-alert GSD (his partner Anana, my Alaskan Malamute, sleeps right through such events or if one is big enough she may open an eye briefly). This is a typical Alaskan situation although what makes it so unusual is it usually happens in April, not January which is one of the two coldest months in Alaska. Normally in January it is far too cold to see rain and the daylight is far too short for any sunlight to even think about starting to melt the former 14” of snow on the roof.
Last year I saw this happen in late February and into March which was early but nowhere near as early as what’s been happening. Just another sad reminder of the almost total dearth of winter weather for the second consecutive winter season. These pieces which fall from the roof are of varying sizes but most have been fairly large across the past couple of days. I know this because when they have cut loose and embraced gravity they create a loud ‘BOOM!’ upon striking the ground; often the house will shake as a result. The first couple of such impacts yesterday afternoon had me believing an earthquake was underway but there was no follow through from that initial vibration so I knew this wasn’t the case. A quick trip out to the front porch and a careful look around the corner and along the south side of the house showed a couple of recent impact piles.
Such events are part of living in Alaska and have forced these homes to be built with steeply angled roofs and overhangs of at least a foot and a half to insure when this does happen the detritus is distributed away from the side of the building. What is not at all typical is to be wary of and ready to dodge such events in early January…