Tag Archives: snow

An Alaska Welcome — Snow

Last Thursday I had images of Spring in my head.  My three weeks in Hawaii had come to an end and the snow in Anchorage was disappearing rapidly.   Friday was a glorious wonderful warm sunny March day….and then it snowed.  I was sitting in my breakfast room eating dinner when it started.   Overnight we got 20 inches of snow.  Snow that had not been predicted.  Alaska was welcoming me home.

Alaska is a tough place to predict weather.   Anchorage has mountains to the East, and sea water to the west.   This part of the world has few weather stations so the only data available is courtesy of satellites.   Weather men get fooled all the time.  This was the second snow storm the weather guru’s had missed in a month.

My daughter lives in New York City.   She grew up in Alaska, which gives her a different perspective.  We have had more than a few discussions on the regional differences in the good ole USA.   New Yorkers appear to have forgotten how to deal with Winter.   They have become weather wimps.   A little snow and it’s panic city.  Everything shuts down.

Allow me to use last Saturday as an example.   When I awoke to 20 inches of snow in my driveway, I did make a change in plans.   I ate breakfast at home.  When the sun came up, I fired up my snow blower and plowed my driveway.   At about 11, I drove over to my daughters house (about 2 miles away), shoveled snow off her car and brought her car back to my house where I parked it in the garage.   I thought a warm car would be a nice surprise for her.

At about 2:45 PM we went to the airport and picked up my daughter and her family.   They were returning from a week in Florida.   The 11 mile each way drive was uneventful.  The plane arrived a few minutes early.   Later in the day, my wife and I went out for a nice dinner.   The next morning, my street had been plowed and most of the major roads in the city were clear.  Life returned to normal.

The Airport did close for a few hours  late Friday night due to poor visibility, but only a few flights were cancelled.   A United flight from Chicago was diverted to Kenai and a few flights to Fairbanks got cancelled.   UPS and FedEx both have hubs in Anchorage and they operated with only a slight hick-up.

I can’t begin to imagine NYC functioning at anything approaching normal for several days after 20 inches of unanticipated snow.  Let’s hope that global warming really is here to stay, because I don’t think New Yorkers are ready for a return to the colder weather of just 40 years ago.

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Juneau Snow Record

I am ever amazed by my local papers efforts to fill space with local news.   Today I found this little gem on page A-4 column 1 of the Anchorage Daily News:

Snowfall break record by 3.3 inches

A Spring storm has brought record snowfall to parts of Juneau.  The National Weather Service said a snowfall record for the day was broken at the airport, where forecaster Richard Lam said 3.5 inches of snow had been reported as of 10 a.m. Friday.  Lam said the prior record for the day at the airport was 0.2 inches, in 1964.

The article goes on to say that parts of town got rain instead of snow and it was expected to stay wet in Juneau through the weekend.

Why is any of this newsworthy?  Parts of the city got a little wet snow and it set a record.  Give me a break.  Juneau is a very wet place.  Sure it rains more than it snows and snow this late in April is a bit unusual, but the surprise is not that a record was set, but that the old record was so low.

Weather records seem to be broken all the time.   It didn’t used to be that way.   A record snowfall had to be the biggest ever or at least the biggest in the month involved, but not anymore.  Today we have daily records, which give us lots of opportunity to set new records.

30 snowfall records for April alone.  Juneau began as a mining town in about 1880.  Record keeping began some time after that so  the probability that Juneau will have a daily snow record in April is 25% (30/120).  And we have records for high and low temperature, rain and wind.

We keep so many records, that it is virtually impossible not to break old records with regularity.  Juneau’s old record was a trace of snow and now the record is 3.5 inches or about a quarter inch of rainfall equivalent.  By Juneau standards both are low numbers.

Juneau had managed to not have any snow for over 100 years on April 26th, and then it snowed on that day in 2013.   Where is global warming when it’s needed?

And while I’m grousing about weather silliness….what’s going on at the weather channel.   Who gave them permission to start naming winter storms….and who picked the names?  When I was a kid only hurricanes got names, now the Weather Service names all tropical systems.  Storm names are here, there, everywhere.

So many records broken, so many named storms; it’s easy to conclude that the world’s weather must to be getting worse.  Perhaps the only thing that has changed is the way we talk about the weather.  Today we are better at making “much ado about nothing”.