2017 January Monthly Report
The New Year started off with Yakutat registering a low of 16°F, 20°F colder than Barrow at 36°F for the same day. Avalanche reduction hazard efforts were conducted along the Dalton Highway in the Brooks Range, while the Steese Highway was closed from mile 80 to 114. The Steese Highway was closed in the same area on the 3rd, while a travel advisory was issued for the Dalton Highway on the 5th due to high winds and being impassable along the northern end of the road. The Elliot Highway experienced hazardous driving conditions. Notable wind speeds from the snow storm at the end of the year were: 52 mph at Northway, 62 mph at Sheenjek River in the Southeaster Brooks Range, 66 mph at Inigok Airfield in Northwestern Brooks Range, 70 mph at Jago River in Northeastern Brooks Range, 61 mph at Fort Greely, 75 mph at Camden Bay and 77 mph at Cape Lisburne. In Fairbanks, the road crews were still mopping up on the 6th of January.
The Klondike Highway was closed on the 6th, while Taku winds hit the Juneau area on the 9th with minor damage reported. Winds were reported up to 94 mph at downtown Juneau, 72 mph at Eldred Rock and 61 mph at Point Bishop near Juneau. High winds along the northern Panhandle on the 8th included: 67 mph at Fiver Fingers, 66 mph at Eldred Rock, 55 mph at Skagway and 52 mph at Yakutat. Hazardous driving conditions were reported along the Dalton Highway again on the 11th, and then for the Elliott Highway on the 13th. More snow in the Southcentral area on the 13th included: over 18" at Valdez, over 9" at Eagle River, and 6" to 7" reported at locations from Palmer to Anchorage.
High winds in the Southeast on the same day ranged up to 67 mph at Lincoln Island, 54 mph at Hydaburg, 52 mph at Juneau and 51 mph at Ketchikan. Hazardous driving conditions were reported along the Haines Highway on the 14th due to heavy rain and black ice on the road. Heavy rains reported along the Panhandle included: 3.89" at Shelter Cove, 3.26" at Ketchikan, 2.78" near Haines and 2.72" at Yakutat. The storm
continued along the Panhandle the following day with winds up to 70 mph at Sitka, 61 mph at Hydaburg, 59 mph at Annette, 54 mph at Skagway and 43 mph at Yakutat. The rainfall totals for the storms from 11th to 16th were: 11.70" at Pelican, 7.18" at Yakutat, 6.61" at Ketchikan and 5.54" at Sitka. The Klondike Highway was was closed from the 16th to 18th due to heavy rain and black ice.
Snowfall totals for the Southcentral areas on the 16th were 8" at Portage and Hatcher Pass and 8" at Thompson Pass, while parts of Anchorage received 4" to 5". The next day, high winds and drifting snow made for difficult travel along parts of the Parks and Richardson Highways.
Extreme cold began to descend across much of the State on the 17th with a temperature range of 101°F from -51°F at McGrath and Tanana to +50°F at Annette. Anchorage Airport hit -15°F on the 18th, and this was the first time in five years this cold of a temperature had been reported. Barrow reported -30°F, and this ended the longest streak of 387 days, on record, of temperatures staying above this mark. Previous record had been 369 days ending on January 20th, 2006. Temperatures dropped lower on the 18th with - 51°F reported at Fairbanks Airport, the first time for that temperature in six years, and it has not been colder than -51°F since the -52°F on New Year's Eve 1999. In the Fairbanks area, -59°F was reported near the Salcha River, -52°F at Eielson and -51°F at Ft Wainwright. Tanana also reported -59°F and Bettles reported -56°F. The next day Tanana and Bettles reported a low of -53°F. In the Southcentral area temperatures were: -38°F at Talkeetna, -33°F at Wasilla, -20°F at Palmer and -29°F at Kenai. Elliot Highway reported hazardous driving conditions on the 20th. The next day the sun rose at Barrow for the first time in over 2 months.
On the 21st, heavy snowfall impacted the Southcentral areas resulting in avalanche warnings being issued for the south and western Kenai Mountains, and hazardous driving conditions reported along the Seward Highway due to snow and high winds up to 50 mph. Moose Pass reported snowfall totals of over 2 feet. The heavy snowfall prompted the city of Seward to declare a local emergency and request aid from the State as more than 2 ½ feet of snow had fallen in the city. An immediate financial help was provided by local government, AlaskaUSA, Alaska National Insurance, and Guaranteed Emergency Loans. The snowstorm gave Anchorage a winter total of 44.3", more than the previous two winters combined, and resulted in a number of vehicle accidents and the collapse of the dome roof of a sports facility. Two days later avalanche reduction efforts were instituted from miles 19 to 45 along the Seward Highway, and this was repeated for miles 80 to 100 on the 26th. Freezing rain in Anchorage on the 26th generated a number of vehicle accidents and the closure of all after school activities. More avalanche warnings were issued on the 26th for the Kenai Mountains and Turnagain Pass.
As warmer temperatures pushed across the State, Eielson AFB reported a high of +36°F on the 26th, 89°F warmer than the -53°F from the previous week. Denali Park reported 43°F on the 26th, with winds up to 60 mph through the passes of the Alaska Range. The warming created ice roads along the Elliott Highway and drivers were warned to avoid the road.
More high winds along the Panhandle on the 27th resulted in observations of 84 mph at Cape Decision, 77 mph at Hydaburg, 67 mph at Ketchikan, 62 mph at Sitka and Juneau, and 60 mph at Yakutat. The next day winds topped out at 71 mph at Cape Fairweather, 64 mph at Lincoln Island, 58 mph at Annette, 55 mph at Juneau, and 52 mph at Ketchikan and Yakutat. More snow in the Southcentral area on the 38th totaled up to 8" at Wasilla, 7" at Eagle River and up to 6" around Anchorage. Total January snowfall at sea level at Alyeska was over 56". Toward the end of the month, avalanche reduction efforts were conducted along the Dalton Highway in the Brooks Range.