2014 May Monthly Report
Winter advisories were issued on the 5th for parts of northern Alaska. Also on the 5th low clouds at Anchorage Airport caused an Alaska Airlines flight to be diverted to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. On the 6th the Division of Forestry asked that logging roads use be limited until after breakup. An ice jam threatened the village of Circle for a short time on the 6th. For the most part, the break up this spring was quiet, unlike the previous year. The dry spring in the Southeast resulted in an unusual fire warning for the Tongass Forest on the 7th. In Juneau a warning of possible water shortages was given on the 11th, which was caused by the low precipitation. By the 12th, the shortage was severe enough, with the Salmon Creek Reservoir only a third full, that the cruise ships were cut off. While the acute shortage continued another ten days, residents were asked to conserve water for the rest of the month. Low water levels in the Nushagak River resulted in barges of building materials for a new school at Koliganek being turned back.
Pollen counts jumped off the charts in Anchorage on the 12th, a week behind Fairbanks, which had seen high values on the 5th. Counts then peaked again in Fairbanks on the 14th. The first wildfire near Fairbanks sprang up on the 12th, while a red flag warning was issued for the Interior due to dry conditions and high winds. Similar warnings were issued for much of southern Alaska the next day. The Denali Highway was fully open for traffic on the 15th. The same day saw a number of fires been fought across the Mat-Su area. Freezing temperature warnings were posted on the 19th for Southcentral.
A wind driven wildfire that started on the 19th had come within two miles of Tyonek, a village on the northwestern shores of Cook Inlet, by the 20th, and generated evacuations. The fire did jump the Chuitna River, and ran up against the village airstrip. Air tankers, helicopters and firefighters were on the scene. Thereafter, the fire shifted towards the small community of Beluga and a Chugach Electric power plant. With the change in direction, residents of Tyonek were allowed to return home. The fire did make a renewed push at Beluga the next day. Full containment was declared on the 28th. This fire competed with resources against the Funny River fire to the east on the central Kenai Peninsula.
The Funny River fire was a human caused fire that started on the 19th near the Soldotna Airport in the central Kenai Peninsula and quickly spread south through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to Tustumena Lake in just two days. Several evacuation orders were issued to communities on the fire's edge, but all were lifted by the 28th. Progress was reported on containment on the 29th, aided by light rain and higher humidity, as 760 fighters had managed to get 46% containment. The fire had reached over 300 square miles at that point, and burned four remote cabins. Depending on the wind direction, smoke from the fire blanketed Homer or Anchorage areas, and managed to reach all the way to the Interior on the 27th.
The rain allowed the lifting of the burn ban in Anchorage on the 30th, followed by the Kenai Peninsula on the 31st. The growing 100 Mile Creek Fire near Delta Junction hit 715 acres driven by the high winds on Saturday, having started on the 13th during a prescribed burn. To wrap up the month, snow was forecast, and received, in the mountains of Southcentral all the way south to Homer on the 31st. That storm brought flooding and avalanche threats for the Dalton highway. High winds of 40 to 60 mph across the Southcentral and Interior areas were reported, generating many power outages across the region. Up to 80 percent of customers in Anchorage experienced outages. It took two days to fully restore power in the Fairbanks vicinity. Twenty-three fires were reported due to the winds, mostly from dropping power lines, from Mat-Su to Tok, with 15 of them located in the Fairbanks area. Thankfully, all were quickly extinguished.