FAIRBANKS—It's official, but only by a few drops. An eleventh-hour shower dumped just enough rain at the Fairbanks International Airport before midnight Monday to make this June the wettest on record in more than 100 years in Fairbanks as the deluge continued across the Interior.
Exactly one one-hundredth of an inch of rain was reported at the airport on Monday, breaking a tie with 1949 for the wettest June on record at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks since precipitation records began being recorded in 1912.
The last-minute rain pushed the monthly precipitation total to 3.56 inches, besting the 3.55 inch total that fell in 1949. The average rainfall for June is 1.37 inches.
"Literally it was in the eleventh hour," meteorologist Ben Bartos at the weather service in Fairbanks said of the record-setting precipitation. "It was about a half-hour before the end of day when we got our one one-hundredth of an inch."
It was the start of a third round of major rainfall in two weeks in the Fairbanks area. Together, the storms have dropped almost 4 inches of rain in Fairbanks and as much as 6 inches in areas south and east of town, causing flooding on several rivers and creeks across the Interior.
The weather service was forecasting an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain over the eastern and central Interior from Denali Park to Fairbanks to Tok through Wednesday. Flood warnings have been issued for the Alaska Range between the Parks and Richardson highways, as well as for the upper Chena, Salcha and Goodpaster rivers.
As of Tuesday morning, an inch and a half of rain had already been reported in the upper Chena River valley east of Fairbanks and rain continued falling throughout the day.
"It's looking like we could see water as high or higher than two weeks ago on the upper Chena," hydrologist Ed Plumb at the weather service in Fairbanks said, referring to flooding that occurred on the upper Chena during round one of the June deluge.
There's a good chance water will begin flowing over Chena Hot Springs Road at 36.9 Mile sometime Wednesday, and it will likely be too deep for most vehicles to drive through, Plumb said.
Water levels in the Salcha and Goodpaster rivers will also likely reach flood stage sometime Wednesday, he said. Those two areas already had received more than an inch of rain as of Tuesday morning and more rain was forecast for Tuesday night, Plumb said.
Closer to town, only about one-half inch of rain had fallen at the airport, but rainfall totals on the eastern side of town were more than twice that, Plumb said.
"We had places in North Pole that had more than inch," Plumb said. "In the upper Chena valley we had up to an inch to an inch and a half."
In the Alaska Range, about an inch of rain had fallen as of Tuesday morning, with the heaviest amounts east of the Parks Highway and Denali Park.
Engineers at the Chena Flood Control Project in North Pole were monitoring the water flow at Moose Creek Dam to determine if the flood gates will need to be lowered again to restrict flow at the dam and prevent flooding in the lower Chena River near Fairbanks.
Flood control project manager Tim Feavel said there's a good chance the flood gates will need to be lowered for the second time in two weeks based on predictions from the National Weather Service.
"I suspect we will put the gates in the water and begin skimming water off again," Feavel said Tuesday afternoon. "We're looking at the potential (for lowering the flood gates) on Thursday morning.
"Predictions from the National Weather Service are for higher than they were last week," he said.
The gates were nearly lowered last weekend after the second round of heavy rain, but the water level didn't quite reach the 8,000 cubic feet per second level, the threshold for lowering the gates.
"We came very, very close, within 30 cfs," Feavel said. "A few five-gallon pailfuls."
Engineers are still releasing water from the floodplain that was held back last week, and that process will probably continue for another week given the current water levels, he said.
"It's pretty incredible," Feavel said of the amount of rain that has fallen.
Forecasters were also monitoring water levels in the Tanana River, which is expected to rise with water draining out of the Alaska Range and Tanana Valley uplands, as well as the Chatanika River north of town, Plumb said. Heavy rain was falling in the Chatanika River valley on Tuesday afternoon, with between an inch and an inch and a half of rain already reported in some areas.
Rain will begin to taper off today and the weather is expected to do a 180-degree U-turn by the Fourth of July weekend, Plumb said. Sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s are predicted this weekend, he said.
But with rivers still expected to be running high, Plumb said there won't be much opportunity for recreating on rivers.
"All the gravel bars are going to be under water," he said "There aren't going to be many places to take a boat out of the water."
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.
Here are the five wettest Junes on record at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks dating back to 1912.
1. 2014 — 3.56 inches
2. 1949 — 3.55 inches
3. 1955 — 3.52 inches
4. 1977 — 3.01 inches
5. 1942 — 2.75 inches
June daily rainfall (inches)
June 1 — none
June 2 — 0.04
June 3 — trace
June 4 — none
June 5 — 0.18
June 6 — 0.03
June 7 — none
June 8 — trace
June 9 — trace
June 10 — trace
June 11 — trace
June 12 — none
June 13 — 0.02
June 14 — trace
June 15 — none
June 16 — trace
June 17 — 0.03
June 18 — 0.75
June 19 — 0.86
June 20 — 0.13
June 21 — 0.11
June 22 — none
June 23 — trace
June 24 — trace
June 25 — 0.87
June 26 — 0.13
June 27 — 0.40
June 28 — none
June 29 — trace
June 30 — 0.01