Snowstorm misses Kodiak, but this Winter may bring more snow than usual

Coming into last weekend, Kodiak was warned to brace for a heavy winter snowstorm- 55 mph winds, five to eight inches of snow, the works. And then Saturday arrived and… nothing. A dramatic flurry of snow around noontime, and then a cloudy and moderately windy day.

Federal meteorologist Mike Ottenweller who works out of the National Weather Service’s Anchorage office says forecast models in Alaska are tough as there’s not as many sensors and data points as in the Lower 48. 

“From radar coverage to surface observations to upper air balloons, the weather balloons that we launch twice a day, there’s just less data to go into those models. We’ve sometimes informally inside the office referred to the area where that storm was developing as the Bermuda Triangle of lacking weather information. So that’s just an area that’s devoid of any observing platforms,” Ottenweller said.

Big winter storms on Kodiak Island only happen under a very specific set of circumstances. Cold air massing with low pressure, a fair bit of wind, cold sea waters- all moving close, but not too close to the island- these are the conditions that make for the big ones.

They ultimately did get a spectacular storm- it just traveled 100 miles to the east of its expected path.

“Yakutat did get quite a bit of snow. I do not know the numbers, but I would guess on the order of six to 10 inches would be very reasonable. Cordova got five to eight inches during the day Saturday, and that was you know, right on the western periphery of that low so there was snow to be found. I think if there was a mariner who was running through the Gulf of Alaska Saturday afternoon, he or she certainly would have found plenty of soul snow out there,” Ottenweller said.

As we progress further into the cold season, the weather service is beginning to have a clearer picture of what this winter will be like. Ottenweller says Kodiak can expect a moderately colder than usual winter, a trend forecasters say could be statewide. Precipitation returns look normal for Kodiak Island, but that could still mean more snow. Kodiak has plenty of rain during the winter, but that could of course turn to snow as temperatures drop.

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