Alaskans scrambled for ways to keep cool as an unusual heat wave warmed Anchorage and other parts of the state this week, bringing temperatures to the Last Frontier that felt more like Southern California.
Residents headed to Goose Lake in Anchorage as temperatures hit 81 on Tuesday, breaking the previous record for the day of 80 degrees set in 1926. In June, temperatures in Anchorage usually range in the mid-60s.
Even higher temperatures were recorded in the interior of the state.
The small community of Talkeetna, 60 miles from Mt. McKinley, saw the thermometer hit 96 degrees on Tuesday, said David Kochevar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.
Warm, dry winds generated by a system similar to Southern California’s Santa Ana winds led to the record temperatures, Kochevar said. The heat wave started last week with a high of 68 on Thursday, and the temperature stayed above 70 for the next five days.
As a former resident of Juneau, warm summer days are not unknown in Alaska. This hot spell has, however, been unusual. Near Juneau, the Mendenhall glacier has been melting at ever-increasing rates, even posing risks of flooding in downtown Juneau. How much of this is due to normal variations in climate and how much is due to global warming is difficult to know exactly. In time we may know, but by that time it may be too late to save our beautiful glaciers and snow-capped mountains, and the animals and flora that depend on them for survival, such as the polar bears
As Alaskans looked in droves for ways to keep cool, local hardware stores saw products fly off the shelves.
“Our entire fan department is wiped out,” Stephanie Van Ness, owner of Andy’s Ace Hardware in Anchorage, told the Los Angeles Times. The rush started early last week and the store sold through its entire summer supply of fans by the weekend, she said. She said a new stock would be in by Monday.
Other hot commodities included sprinklers, garden hoses and mosquito repellent, with officials reporting a mosquito boom caused by the warm weather.
For many, though, the weather was a welcome reprieve after a series of wet and gloomy summers.
"Most people are saying, it's so hot outside, but I’m not complaining, because it’s great,” Van Ness said.
Though it's not bound to last. The temperatures dropped Wednesday, and Kochevar said record heat was not expected in the near future.