The Heat Is Online

Alaska Sees February "Heat Wave"

February in Alaska? Must Be Golf Weather

The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2003

ANCHORAGE, Feb. 8 — (AP)- Typically by February, Alaskans are hoping for a reprieve from winter's cold and snow. This year, they are seeing a heat wave.

Unseasonably warm weather has blanketed the state all week, a spike in a winter of above-average temperatures. Patches of brown grass poke through thinning snowdrifts, and trees are bare of snow.

"We call it the Pineapple Express," said John Stepetin, in the National Weather Service's Anchorage office. "It's a pretty big low-pressure system bringing up all the warm air from Hawaii, and it's going all the way up past Fairbanks."

According to the service's Web site, as of today, Anchorage temperatures have been above 30 degrees for 11 straight days and were above the city's average high on 28 of the last 30 days. The predicted high for Sunday is 40 degrees.

The warm weather has caused rapid melting, rainstorms, wind and travel advisories, highway closings, avalanche warnings, power failures and general disarray. Mud slides and high winds suspended all mountain activity in Girdwood, a ski resort town. Schools closed early one day this week in Fairbanks after rains caused slick roads. Wind gusts pushed an ambulance off the road in Cooper Landing.

There are some benefits. The Palmer Golf Course opened on Wednesday. A dozen golfers were on the course by noon. "The only snow left is what we've plowed into piles in the parking lot," said Jeff Barnhart, the course's head professional.

Not everyone is pleased with the weather.

Ken Ford, president of the Alaska Sled Dog and Racing Association, said the racing season had been a struggle because of the lack of snow and slick and sloppy trails. The World Champion Sled Dog Race, which was to start two weeks from now, has been canceled because of mild weather.

"This is about as bad as it can get," Mr. Ford said.