It’s been a weird few weeks of weather for Southeast Alaska. After an unusually long dry spell, Haines had its first snowfall of the season. This much snow before Halloween has only happened a handful of times on record.
“It’s definitely not a fall pattern for Southeast Alaska,” says David Levin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau.
“The string of dry days that we had is probably about just as equally unusual as the snow amounts that we’ve been seeing,” says Levin. “Definitely an unusual October pattern for sure.”
Most of the snow fell Sunday into Monday, and downtown Haines recorded over 12 inches. That’s following 17 dry days. Last year, the first snow fell on November 3. But Levin says it’s not surprising for the first snowfall to come in October.
“But as far as the amounts go it’s a little bit out of the ordinary for us to receive this much,” says Levin.
Snowfall used to be recorded at the airport. Now it happens downtown, so there’s some discrepancy when comparing this snowfall to others historically. But, it can still provide some perspective. Levin says the most snowfall ever recorded in Haines in one day was 15 inches, and that was in 1926. He says 12 or more inches have only been recorded in October about four times. This is one of those times.
Levin says this unusual weather has a lot to do with wind patterns that are usually experienced later in the winter.
Haines Public Facilities Director Brad Ryan says the winter weather was definitely surprising.
“We’ve got a few things we’d like to do before we get fully chained up still,” says Ryan.
The borough notified residents that there would be limited plowing Monday morning. That’s because the entire snow fleet wasn’t ready. But Ryan says things went smoothly and he’s happy with their response.
“It’s an early snow, I think it will melt,” says Ryan. “These are hard snow events because we anticipate it will rain and melt it off. The roads are still soft so we don’t want to plow any gravel roads right now. They haven’t had a chance to freeze, the plows dig into them more, do more damage. So ideally this will melt off, the roads will freeze before we get the next big snowfall and it should go pretty smoothly.”
Looking ahead, Levin says the winter forecast for Haines and Skagway is predicted to be cooler.
“Doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be a really cold winter but the trend is cooler,” says Levin.
And precipitation, Levin says, looks like it’s going to be around average.
“As far as snowfall goes it’s really going to depend on when the cold air is here and when the precipitation is here,” says Levin. “We need those two to overlap to get snow.”
On Monday, there was less snowfall in Skagway where residents saw mostly rain. And by Monday afternoon, that rain made its way to Haines, turning the first snow of the season into slush.