The Winter of Record

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I think it’s safe to say that our second winter in Alaska has come to an end. By all accounts, spring technically started at the solstice, but in Alaska, winter ends when it wants to, not a second earlier. 

Spring, like fall, can be missed entirely, if you blink too long. 

Either that, or summer here is the longest spring in the world. 

I never paid this much attention to weather when I worked in newspapers. The men and women brazen enough to predict the weather didn’t write it down, they spoke it to the masses wrong or right. 

But I have a bit of a competitive streak when it comes to life experiences. 

I’m a little jealous that my dad has been to more than 100 countries, and I’m only at 51.

When I traveled to Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, it was only to find out that my father had already been there.

But he hasn’t been to Barrow. He hasn’t stood at the northernmost point in the United States.

See, it’s neurotic.

When the winter started to build, when the snows piled up like mystic sand dunes, it seemed as if the Alaska I had always envisioned finally showed up.

I had witnessed a doozy of a storm in Nome in in 2011, but it was eclipsed by a blow of epic proportions just under a year later.

And the snow continued to pile up. It swallowed our broke-down third car. It ate the deck whole, and we gave up shoveling the walk sometime in mid January. 

Then it froze solid. And it stayed that way for a month. 

We were fortunate enough to escape to Hawaii for two weeks to thaw out. 

At some point, the winter turned to survival mode. Netflix and Call of Duty 4 kill a lot more than brain cells and cgi soldiers. They kill time. 

The walls of snow along our road rose to a lofty height of something taller than our SUV. 

And soon the talk began. It was quiet at first, just a few mentions of a possible snow record. 

But I was hooked. If we’re going to survive an Alaskan winter, it might as well be the worst winter on record. 

The talk turned to hard numbers. The inches grew, and suddenly the 50+ year old record was within reach. 

But the spring encroached, and snow-filled days turned to bright blue skies and sunshine. The temperatures warmed into the 30s, and the snowmaker systems out in the Gulf of Alaska dissipated. 

It was the equivalent of being within a few miles of a border crossing and not ‘getting the country.’ Sitting at a banquette and bypassing the souffle. 

And then an overcast Saturday fell like a claymore. Damp and heavy with no highlights in the steely sky, the snow smell like gunpowder on New Year’s Eve. 

The flakes came, small at first and then thick. I was convinced the record fell early, but the National Weather Service wouldn’t measure until 4 p.m. Anchorage waited in somewhat of an agony. 

Simply to declare the winter the worst or the snowiest in recorded history wasn’t enough. It needed an official call, a meteorologist or a Tweet from the guys and ladies down at the National Weather Service. 

Like Santa Claus, we all had to wait and anticipate together. 

But it fell, and it fell hard that day. We crushed the old record by a good 3 inches of new snow that melted almost as fast as it touched the ground. 

And I can officially say that I survived the worst, or snowiest, winter on record in Anchorage, Alaska. 

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