Baked Alaska: Unusual heat wave hits 49th state
ANCHORAGE, Alaska A heat wave hitting Alaska may not rival the blazing heat of Phoenix or Las Vegas, but to residents of the 49th state, the days of hot weather feel like a stifling oven — or a tropical paradise.
With temperatures topping 80 degrees in Anchorage, and higher in other parts of the state, people have been sweltering in a place where few homes have air conditioning.
They're sunbathing and swimming at local lakes, hosing down their dogs and cleaning out supplies of fans in at least one local hardware store. Mid-June normally brings high temperatures in the 60s in Anchorage, and just a month ago, it was still snowing.
The weather feels like anywhere but Alaska to 18-year-old Jordan Rollison, who was sunbathing with three friends and several hundred others lolling at the beach of Anchorage's Goose Lake.
"I love it, I love it," Rollison said. "I've never seen a summer like this, ever."
State health officials even took the unusual step of posting a Facebook message reminding people to slather on the sunscreen.
Some people aren't so thrilled, complaining that it's just too hot.
"It's almost unbearable to me," said Lorraine Roehl, who has lived in Anchorage for two years after moving here from the community of Sand Point in Alaska's Aleutian Islands. "I don't like being hot. I'm used to cool ocean breeze."
On Tuesday, the official afternoon high in Anchorage was 81 degrees, breaking the city's record of 80 set in 1926 for that date.
Other smaller communities throughout a wide swath of the state are seeing even higher temperatures.
All-time highs were recorded elsewhere, including 96 degrees on Monday 80 miles to the north in the small community of Talkeetna, purported to be the inspiration for the town in the TV series, "Northern Exposure" and the last stop for climbers heading to Mount McKinley, North America's tallest mountain. One unofficial reading taken at a lodge near Talkeetna even measured 98 degrees, which would tie the highest undisputed temperature recorded in Alaska.
That record was set in 1969, according to Jeff Masters, meteorology director of the online forecasting service Weather Underground.
"This is the hottest heat wave in Alaska since '69," he said. "You're way, way from normal."
It's also been really hot for a while. The city had six days over 70 degrees, then hit a high of 68 last Thursday, followed by five more days of 70-plus.
The city's record of consecutive days with temperatures of 70 or above was 13 days recorded in 1953, said Eddie Zingone, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service who has lived in the Anchorage area for 17 years.
The heat wave also comes after a few cooler summers — the last time it officially hit the 80 mark in Anchorage was 2009. Plus, Tuesday marked exactly one month that the city's last snow of the season fell, said Zingone, who has lived in Anchorage for 18 years.
"Within a month you have that big of a change, it definitely seems very, very hot," he said. "It was a very quick warm-up."
With the heat comes an invasion of mosquitoes many are calling the worst they've ever seen. At the True Value Hardware store, people have grabbed up five times the usual amount of mosquito warfare supplies, said store owner Tim Craig. The store shelves also are bare of fans, which is unusual, he said.
"Those are two hot items, so to speak," he said.
Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, said it's gotten up to 84 degrees at his home in the Anchorage suburb of Eagle River, where a tall glass front lets the sunlight filter through.
"And that's with all the windows open and a fan going," he said. "We're just not used to it. Our homes aren't built for it."
Love or hate the unusual heat, it'll all be over soon.
Weather forecasters say a high pressure system that has locked the region in clear skies and baking temperatures has shifted and Wednesday should be the start of a cooling trend, although slightly lower temperatures in the 70s are still expected to loiter into the weekend.
Last updated: 7:51 am Monday, July 29, 2013