Warm, wet weather across Alaska causes havoc and breaks records

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Dec. 29—Update 7:40 a.m. Wednesday:

Anchorage saw brief freezing rain on Tuesday afternoon, but temperatures rose above freezing and much of the precipitation fell as regular rain, which lessened the impact of the storm, said meteorologist Joe Wegman of the National Weather Service on Wednesday morning.

About an inch of snow was reported near Talkeetna, and some other portions of the Matanuska and Susitna valleys saw freezing rain, he said.

On Wednesday morning there was a glaze of ice on many Southcentral roadways, Wegman said.

Driving conditions on the Parks Highway around Wasilla and on the Glenn Highway near Palmer and east were considered difficult by the Department of Transportation. Ice build up and glaze was reported on the roads. Driving conditions in Anchorage were considered fair.

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Freezing rain through early Wednesday could cause ice to accumulate throughout Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys, the weather service says.

The heaviest freezing rain was expected to fall overnight, and the storm was forecast to end early Wednesday, said meteorologist Virginia Rux.

Temperatures were expected to hover around freezing but will be lowest Wednesday morning, Rux said. Drivers should prepare for slick roads, especially during the Wednesday morning commute.

Ice accumulation could cause downed tree branches and power outages. A storm over the weekend in Fairbanks left thousands without power and roads coated in a sheet of ice.

Some snow may fall at the tail end of the storm, Rux said, although it is mostly expected in the mountains and won't be significant in the city. Up to 4 inches of snow was forecast north and east of Palmer.

This storm comes at the end of a pattern of warmer, wetter weather across the region, said meteorologist Joe Wegman.

"We have a large upper-level ridge and a very stout, subtropical high pressure system that centered well south of Sand Point. And what it's doing is the high is bringing up subtropical heat and moisture and streaming it straight northward from the tropics up into Alaska," he said. "So that's causing the abnormally warm air to move over."

Records for precipitation and high temperatures have been set across the region during the last few days. The most recent storm in Fairbanks marked this as wettest December on record and the third wettest day overall.

Record daily high temperatures were recorded recently in Kodiak, St. Paul Island and Cold Bay. The high of 62 degrees on Sunday in Cold Bay set a monthly high temperature for December and was the warmest temperature recorded from the end of October until early May.

In Kodiak, a high of 65 degrees on Sunday beat the previous monthly high temperature by 20 degrees, Wegman said. It was the highest temperature recorded in Kodiak anytime between Oct. 5 and April 21 — meaning it would have set monthly records for four other months, too.

The temperature also marked a statewide high temperature record for December.

It was the first time a record had been beaten by such a drastic difference in the 108 years that weather records have been kept in Kodiak, he said.

The high temperatures were helped by the subtropical system, but Wegman said in Kodiak a wind event also contributed to the heat.

Wegman said the spell of warm, wet weather is about over — the high-pressure system will be sinking south in coming days, which will allow the cold to creep back. Snow is expected to fall in Anchorage on Thursday and Friday, and Wegman said temperatures will drop below zero again by New Year's Day.

"If it's not one extreme, it's the other, it seems," he said.

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