Q. Five people wanted to know similar things, such as what is the weather like in August? What is your weather like, in general, in Alaska? How often does it snow? What is your weather like in June? I’m cruising the Inside Passage the first of September and am wondering what weather to expect.(these were asked by Jordan, Anonymous, Mateotron, Karen and Eleanor.)
A. This is a little bit hard to answer. Our state is so big that it really varies from place to place.
Fairbanks, which is about 360 miles north of me gets hotter in the summer and colder in the winter than it does here. They have summer days in the 80’s and 90’s sometimes, although most of them are upper 50’s to maybe 70; however, it always cools off at night, so you need a blanket.That is nice. I think folks can stand hot days pretty well if they can sleep cool, don’t you? It is not unusual for them to have -40 and -50 in the winter. Sometimes it will be 40 or 50 below for days at a time! It got 72 below one winter when we lived at Copper Center.
The Anchorage area, which I tease my Fairbanks area kids as being the ‘banana belt’, is more moderate. Our summer days are mostly in the upper 50’s to upper 70’s, and our winters are more like mostly zero to 20 above, or maybe 10 below, just to give you an idea.
Down in lower Alaska, for instance around Juneau, it rains a lot, and doesn’t get near as severe in winter, nor as hot in summer. Summer in Juneau will find it mostly in the 50’s. Winter is typically in the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s.
The secret for an enjoyable stay in Alaska is to bring clothing that you can ‘layer’, adding to or taking off to suit yourself.
Jordan, I believe you wanted to know specifically about August. Are you perhaps coming up in August? Well, since I don’t know exactly which part you are coming to, I’ll just give you a few examples: In August, average temperature in Fairbanks is upper 50’s and rainfall 1.82 inches. Anchorage area is about the same on temps – upper 50’s, but rainfall is 2.31 inches. In lower Alaska, upper temps will again be mid 50’s, but rainfall is 5.10″ on average, for August. See? I told you it rains more there. That’s why they have the beautiful tall evergreens; whereas our area has the more stunted black spruce. To compare an annual average figure – Juneau gets 53.86 inches of rain a year and Fairbanks only gets 10.37 inches a year. Big difference.
Now, how much does it snow? Well, again, depends. Anchorage and Fairbanks have about the same…69 and 68 inches. Juneau gets 100 inches; but listen to this: Valdez gets an average of 320 inches! That’s over 26 feet of snow.
The good thing about our supposed over 5 feet of snow is that there is never that much on the ground at once. We’ll get maybe a foot or two of standing snow, (if that) and then one winter day we’ll awaken to a Chinook blowing. It is a soft feeling, unseasonably warm wind, It will blow for 3 or 4 days sometimes, and it will greatly reduce the depth of the snow.
Now, down in Valdez (say it to rhyme with ‘cheese’. You can fool us into thinking you are an old timer if you say it correctly. Anytime we hear it said as Vahl-days, we know you are a newcomer.) Okay. Down there, the over 26 feet of snow basically stays on the ground. No kidding, before winter is over, the roads of the town are like open-topped tunnels thruout the town. We have friends who live there. They stand on their roof to keep the snow shoveled off (everyone there does) and guess what? They pitch the shovels full of snow UP onto the snowpile, instead of down onto the ground. There isn’t any ground! Kids swings sets get completely buried. This happens in Whittier, Alaska also. We had friends there too, years ago, and would visit them and you would swear you were in what you think of as Siberia.
For your inside passage cruise the first of September, Eleanor, you will find temps in the mid 50’s most likely. It is bound to rain some of the time so bring a rain jacket and rain hat. But you will be so amazed at the beauty, you won’t even mind, I promise!
Karen, you find June temps pretty close to those I quoted above for August. Maybe just a couple degrees cooler. Really depends on the year.
Take care, you all, and write me again. -Bonnie J.