2013 July Monthly Report
One of the big weather related news item for July was the Stuart Creek 2 fire, located east of Fairbanks. This fire, started on June 25th on military training grounds, ended up the month at over 85,000 acres. The fire generated an evacuation watch on the 2nd for residents of portion of Chena Hot Springs Road as well as closure of recreation trains, campgrounds and cabins in the area. The fire quieted some on the 4th and 5th, with cooler weather and some light rain, but grew quickly on the 6th and 7th and prompted evacuation orders to be issued. The orders were lifted on the 8th. The fire was 71% contained at the end of the month, as far as it could be given that a portion of the fire is located in hazardous areas on military training grounds. In other fire related news, the Skinny Road fire west of Fairbanks was in mop-up mode by July 6th, but smoke could still occasionally be seen throughout the month. A number of other fires were fought across the state in July. There were 20 record fires just in Denali National Park at the start of the month. The Moon Lake fire complex near Tok and Tanacross was also actively fought by fire crews.
The summer weather thus far has been somewhat similar to 2004, with dry conditions and above normal temperatures. 2004 was the worst fire season (6.4 million acres burned) since good observations exist for Alaska (since 1955). Luckily, at the end of the month, we are only somewhat above the normal area burned (about 1 million acres) so far, however, August could add to this. Nevertheless, June and July are the two months where most of the acreage is burned, based on historical data. One possible reason for the dissimilar acreage burned, is the less than normal thunderstorm strikes for the temperature conditions that have been observed.
The fairly heavy rainfall (up to two inches) across the Interior on the 8th prompted flood warnings to be issued on small streams feeding the upper Chena, Chatanika and Salcha rivers. Anchorage Fire Department lifted the burn ban from June on July 2nd, but then reinstituted it on the 23rd in response to the warm, dry weather. The City of Kenai issued water restrictions at the end of the month due to low levels in the reservoir generated by the nice summer.