First snow of the season

Fairbanks saw its first snow of the season Monday to which Megan Scheer exclaimed on social media, “It has begun!” Scattered snow showers are predicted the next couple of days. Courtesy Megan Scheer

Although it is still technically summer, at least until Wednesday, it is already beginning to feel like winter in Fairbanks.

The season’s first snowfall at Fairbanks International Airport was officially recorded Sunday morning. Temperatures aren’t expected to rise much, with highs in the upper 30s and low 40s for the foreseeable future with more snow in the forecast for Friday.

The cooler temperatures were caused by a “pretty good push of cold air” moving down from the high Arctic, climatologist Rick Thoman said. The cold front came with some moisture, which caused rain and snow in Fairbanks on Sunday and Monday. The arctic air caused extremely cold temperatures in high areas of the Brooks Range, where temperatures were as low as 3 degrees Monday morning.

About a half-inch of snow was expected in Fairbanks on Monday, with greater accumulations at higher elevations in the nearby hills to the east. The average date for the first snowfall at the Fairbanks airport is Sept. 22, so the snow event this week is right on schedule.

“It’s not unusual at all,” Thoman said. However, he noted that the past few years (2018, 2019 and 2020) it has not snowed at all in September. That is out of the ordinary, Thoman said, while this year is a “revert back to normal.”

Warnings and watches

While the transition to winter is happening somewhat gradually in Fairbanks, other parts of the Interior are seeing a more dramatic shift in seasons.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for the Southeastern Interior, including the Upper Tanana Valley and Fortymile country, areas southeast of Delta Junction and in the Eastern Alaska Range, from Monday until Wednesday. The National Weather Service statement said to expect heavy snow and blowing snow, with accumulations of up to 10 inches. The greater amounts of snow are at higher elevations, mostly in the Eastern Alaska Range. Delta Junction and areas to the west can expect snow accumulations of 2 to 4 inches.

It is also forecast to be extremely windy, with wind speeds of 40 to 50 miles per hour near the Alaska Range. This will lead to blowing snow and drifting in higher elevations.

People traveling in the area should prepare for difficult traveling conditions along the Richardson Highway south of Delta Junction, the Alaska Highway east of Delta Junction and the Taylor Highway to Eagle.

The National Weather Service also issued a winter storm advisory for the Denali area, including Healy and Denali National Park, through Tuesday morning. People should expect snow, blowing snow and localized poor visibility. The total snow accumulation is expected to be between 2 and 6 inches. Winds gusting to 35 miles per hour will cause drifting, according to the National Weather Service.

Thoman explained that the storms in the Southeastern Interior are caused by a meeting of cold Arctic air and moisture from the southwest. In addition to the cold air that settled over the Interior, there is a low pressure system moving northeast from the Gulf of Alaska. This system is bringing moisture, causing the snow in Fortymile country.

Contact reporter Maisie Thomas at 907-459-7544 or mthomas@newsminer.com.

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