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Fairbanks gets unusual amount of rain

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Posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 12:10 am | Updated: 11:36 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — A late-season rainstorm soaked Fairbanks on Sunday and Monday with one of the biggest rainfalls on record in October for Alaska’s second-largest city.

As of 3 p.m. Monday, approximately three-quarters of an inch of rain had fallen at Fairbanks International Airport since it began raining on Sunday afternoon.

While that’s not a record, it is an usually large amount of rain for so late in the autumn in Fairbanks, the National Weather Service said in a statement issued Monday afternoon.

It was the biggest, single, October rain event in Fairbanks since 1986, when 0.80 inches of rain fell on Oct. 10. The biggest October rainstorm in Fairbanks occurred in 1921. That year, 1.45 inches of rain fell Oct. 10-11.

The rainfall almost equaled October’s average precipitation total of 0.83 inches.

“Unseasonably wet,” is how meteorologist Rick Thoman at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks described conditions on Monday.

The rain was a result of a large high-pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska, Thoman said.

“We had subtropical moisture rotating around that high pressure in a nice, round, northwest flow,” he said. “It’s a picture-perfect way to get a big snowfall in Fairbanks.”

In fact, had it been colder the rain would have fallen in the form of snow, Thoman said.

“If this had been a month from now we’d have had a foot of snow,” he said.

There was snow falling at higher elevations above 1,500 feet but it wasn’t sticking because the ground was too wet and warm.

“Locally there have been some reports of wet splats of snow as low as 800 feet,” Thoman said.

Snow was sticking at elevations higher than 2,000 feet, he said. An automated gauge on Eagle Summit about 100 miles north of Fairbanks reported 5 inches of snow on Monday afternoon, Thoman said.

Cooler and drier conditions will prevail starting today and continuing through the week as a cold front moves into the Tanana Valley. Nighttime temperatures are expected to drop into the lower 20s tonight and they will fall into the teens beginning on Wednesday. No more rain or snow is in the forecast for the next several days.

“If we don’t get measurable snow in next few hours it’s going to be some days before we get some,” Thoman said about 4 p.m. Monday.

Contact the newsroom at 459-7572.

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