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June ends, but rainy weather to continue

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Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 8:02 am, Tue Jul 1, 2014.

FAIRBANKS — What more fitting way to end the wettest June on record than with more rain?

Another round of heavy rain was expected to begin pouring down on the southeastern Interior last night and remain through Wednesday, continuing what has so far been a soggy summer for residents north of the Alaska Range.

The National Weather Service is calling for 1 1/2 to 4 inches of rain over the eastern Alaska Range between the Parks and Richardson highways and anywhere from one-half to 2.5 inches over the uplands east of Fairbanks, namely the Chena, Salcha and Goodpaster river basins.

With the ground already saturated and rivers running high after from more than 3 inches of rain in the past two weeks, there is a good chance for flooding along Interior rivers, hydrologist Ed Plumb with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said.

The weather service issued a flood warning for the eastern Alaska Range between the Parks and Richardson highways and a flood advisory for Denali National Park and Preserve, which experienced substantial flooding in the west end of the park late last week.

“We could easily get 1 to 3 inches in the eastern Alaska Range and it looks like it could be 4-plus inches in the mountains,” Plumb said.

The heaviest ran was expected east of the Parks Highway, Plumb said. Less rain was forecast for the west end of Denali Park, which is good news for road crews that began making repairs to the only road leading into the park after sections of the road near Wonder Lake were washed out by flooding late last week.

“We’re not going to see as heavy rain in Denali Park as last week,” he said, referring to the more than 3.3 inches of rain that fell at Wonder Lake in a 24-hour period.

The weather service also issued a flood watch on the upper Chena, the Salcha and the Goodpaster rivers beginning late tonight. All three rivers have surpassed flood stage twice in the last 10 days.

The precipitation bull’s-eye locally appeared to be over the Salcha River basin as of late Monday afternoon, Plumb said.

“We could see 2 1/2 to 3 inches in the Salcha,” he said.

Forecasters were calling for considerably less rain in urban Fairbanks.

“Here in Fairbanks we’re not going to get a lot of rain, maybe a half inch or less,” Plumb said. “Most of it is going to be off to the east and southeast.”

The heaviest rain will be this afternoon and evening, he said. Forecasters don’t think the rain will be heavy enough to cause the Chena River to rise high enough to lower the flood gates at Moose Creek Dam in the Chena Flood Control Project in North Pole for the second time in two weeks, but that’s a possibility, Plumb said

It will be the third major rainfall to soak the eastern Interior in the last two weeks and will likely put the month of June in the record books as the wettest June on record. Each of the storms have been produced by the same type of weather pattern — low-pressure systems moving east from Canada and tapping moisture from the Gulf of Alaska

As of Monday, this month was tied with June 1949 for the wettest June ever recorded in Fairbanks with 3.55 inches of precipitation. Most of that rain — 3.28 inches — fell in the last two weeks of the month. 

Whether or not enough rain would fall before midnight to break the record was uncertain, Plumb said.

With all the water draining from the Alaska Range and Tanana Valley uplands, the weather service is keeping a close eye on the Tanana River, Plumb said.

“Water levels are going to get pretty high on the Tanana by the weekend,” he said. “That will be later in the week as the water makes its way to the Tanana.”

The rain was expected to begin falling a day after Fairbanks’ hottest day of the summer so far. The temperature at Fairbanks International Airport hit 81 degrees on Sunday, the first day this summer the mercury at the airport has climbed to the 80-degree mark.

That’s in marked contrast to last summer, when Fairbanks set a record with 36 days that were 80 degrees or warmer. Last summer, Fairbanks had already had 20 days with temperatures of 80 degrees or higher by June 29. The average number of 80-degree days during a summer in Fairbanks is 12.

The weather is forecast to do a U-turn later this week in time for the Independence Day weekend, with sunny skies and high temperatures in the mid-70s by Friday.

But Plumb cautioned that most Interior rivers will still be running high when the holiday weekend arrives for anyone thinking about camping or boating.

“In most of these rivers the gravel bars are going to be gone,” he said. “There might not be a lot of camping spots on rivers.”

Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587. Follow him on Twitter:


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