Rainfall sets new record

After above-average spring and summer, rain continues to be in Juneau's forecast

Posted: Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If a typical day in Juneau includes some rain, the past five months have been typical enough to set a weather record.

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Measurable precipitation was recorded on 109 of 153 days from April through August, surpassing the record of 106 days set in the soggy spring and summer of 1973, according to Michael Mitchell, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Juneau.

He doesn't see a dry day coming anytime soon.

With the previous persistent precipitation, heavy rains at the end of last week caused some rivers and streams to overflow their banks. Montana Creek crested 6 inches above its banks Saturday - 2 to 4 inches below what is officially its flood stage, but high enough to cause problems on roads and at least one home, Mitchell said.

Storms coming in this fall could cause more than their share of problems because the ground is so saturated, he added.

"You can dig a hole in the Mendenhall Valley a few feet down and get water," Mitchell said. There have been places with standing water in the area as well.

On Thursday and Friday, 2.46 inches of rain fell at the airport where official records are recorded, but other places got more, Mitchell said. Downtown, the double storm brought 3.30 inches. On North Douglas Island, 5.45 inches were recorded over the two days, Mitchell added.

"A front came through and came back and hit us again," he said. That was on top of rain earlier in the week. "Not only did it rain Wednesday and Tuesday, it rained on Monday and Sunday before that."

Since weather records began being kept at the airport in 1947, there was one spring and summer with more rain than the 30.18 inches that fell from April though August. A trace more - 30.24 inches - fell during the five months in 1961.

Since January 1, there already have been 161 days with measurable precipitation. The distinction of the most rainy or snowy days in a year currently goes to 1999, with 277.

Although rain might not be unusual for Juneau, the reason for nearly daily doses of rainfall is, Mitchell said. A high pressure system sitting over Vancouver Island is sending warm, wet tropical air up to Southeast Alaska. So Seattle has had an unusually dry summer, receiving 0.02 inches of rain in August, and only 0.06 inches of rain in July.

At the same time, Tucson, in usually dry Southern Arizona, is recording its second wettest summer on record, although the reasons are different, Mitchell said.

It was just two years ago that Juneau set a record for the fewest number of spring and summer days with measurable precipitation, he noted. In 2004, when at one point there were a record eight straight days of at least 80-degree temperatures, rain was only recorded on 57 of the 153 days from August through April.

There were extremes in 2005, too. In November, Juneau recorded more than 9 inches of rain in a seven-day period for the first time. The torrent resulted in landslides and damaged trails as well as flooding.

This fall, it won't take as much rain for similar problems to occur, Mitchell said. "The low-lying areas are already primed. (A heavy storm) would not be a good thing."

The sort of light rain that fell Monday shouldn't pose flooding risks, he said.

Today, the sun might even make an appearance over Juneau, he said. "We still have showers in the forecast." And rain is predicted for the next week.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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