FAIRBANKS - The Tanana River ice went out at Nenana on Monday night but it will be another week before Nenana Ice Classic officials know who or how many winners there are in Alaska’s richest guessing game.
The ice went out at 8:39 p.m., though the official winning time was 7:39 p.m. Alaska Standard Time because the contest to see who can guess the exact time the ice will go out at Nenana runs on standard, not daylight, time.
Ice Classic manager Cherrie Forness said workers are still entering names and guesses from the more than 200,000 tickets that were sold around the state between February and April.
“It will be about a week before we know how many winners there are,” Forness said from Nenana on Tuesday.
The jackpot for this year’s contest is not known yet. The board of directors is meeting Thursday night to determine that, Forness said.
This year’s breakup was the fourth-earliest on record and marked only the second time in 96 years that the ice went out on April 23. The earliest breakup on record is April 20 in 1940 and 1998. The ice also went out on April 23 in 1993 at 1:01 p.m.
The ice in Nenana began giving way about a half-mile upstream of the tripod late Monday afternoon and quickly eroded its way downstream, said Forness, who was part of the small crowd that watched the tripod float away.
“It happened real quickly,” she said. “Big pieces of ice were moving back behind the tripod and it opened up back there. Then the holes in front of the tripod opened up and water started bubbling up through them and eating away at the ice.
“Then the tripod tipped over and the whole sheet of ice sitting in front of Nenana started moving downriver,” Forness said. “It was pretty cool actually.”
The early breakup nearly caught officials by surprise. They originally weren’t going to hook the clock up until Sunday or Monday but decided to do so on Friday just to be safe.
It turned out to be a good move.
“I told Dennis, ‘We can’t be doing this again,’ ” Forness said of Dennis Argall, the board president and official clock-hooker-upper.
Contact staff writer Tim Mowry at 459-7587.
This year’s breakup for the 96th annual Nenana Ice Classic was the fourth-earliest on record. Here are the five earliest breakups.
Date Time Year
April 20 3:27 p.m. 1940
April 20 4:54 p.m. 1998
April 23 1:01 p.m. 1993
April 23 7:39 p.m. 2012
April 24 2:16 p.m. 2004