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Interior Alaska shivers in record cold temps

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Posted: Monday, April 29, 2013 12:30 am | Updated: 9:03 am, Mon Apr 29, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The winter that won’t end continued Sunday with record-low temperatures around Interior Alaska.

The low temperature at Fairbanks International Airport was 2 degrees above zero, which obliterated the old record of 8 above set in 1924. New records were set at Eagle (5 below), Eielson Air Force Base (1 above) and Delta Junction (3 above).

“It was pretty chilly,” said meteorologist Melissa Keller at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

The coldest temperature reported Sunday morning was 9 below in Circle Hot Springs, about 100 miles north of Fairbanks, and 25 Mile of the Salcha River, about 40 miles south of town. It was 6 below at Smith Lake on the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The chilly temperatures are the product of cold, dry air from the North Pole and Arctic Ocean being blown over a large part of Alaska. Temperatures are not expected to warm up dramatically anytime soon, Keller said.

The temperature of 2 above Sunday was the third-lowest temperature this late in the spring at the airport, the weather service said. The last time it was colder than that in the spring was May 9, 1964, when the temperature at the airport was 1 below zero.

The normal low temperature for April 28 in Fairbanks is 30 above and Sunday’s high temperature of 37 barely topped that. The normal high is 53 degrees.

Based on the forecast, which calls for highs in the  mid 30s the next few days before warming into the 40s Thursday, it’s almost a certainty that this will be the first April since 1972 that the temperature at the Fairbanks airport won’t hit 50 degrees, Keller said.

In addition to the record cold Sunday morning, many places tied or broke records for the coldest high temperature on Saturday. The temperature failed to climb out of the 20s across much of the Interior. The  high temperature of 29 degrees at the Fairbanks airport tied the coldest high temperature for that day, which was set in 1935.

“That’s pretty amazing with 17 hours of daylight,” said Ed Plumb at the weather service in Fairbanks.

Through Saturday, this April is the third-coldest on record in more than 100 years in Fairbanks and there’s a chance it could end up the second-coldest before the end of the month. The average monthly temperature of 17.0 degrees through Saturday is 14.6 degrees below normal.

The coldest April on record was 1924 with an average temperature of 14.8 degrees and April 1911 is second on the list with an average temperature of 17.4 degrees.

The extended cold has put breakup on hold in the Interior and the concern is that a rapid warm-up could produce problems with ice jams on major rivers because the ice is still so thick. The Tanana River ice in Nenana was still 51 inches thick Thursday when officials with the Nenana Ice Classic measured it. That’s the thickest the ice has been this late in decades.

“We don’t see any above normal temperatures in the near future, which is good,” Plumb, a hydrologist for the weather service, said. “If we have April weather in May we’ll be fine but the chance of that gets less and less as we get into May.”

The normal high temperature in the first week of May is almost 60 degrees, which would represent a dramatic warm-up compared to temperatures of late, Plumb said.

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.

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