I had just returned from a ten-day sojourn (okay, two weeks prior) in Vienna and London with my parents. We had a lovely time and I was still on the post-holiday high. Even getting up two hours early the every Monday to drive to work. I was stationed out of the Anchorage office (temporarily), which was novel since I have spent most of my professional life in a remote location where I didn’t have to commute forty-five minutes each way.
I enjoyed it though. It was a nice change to wear a tie and button up, looking fly, feeling good the entire week. Being at work for only eight hours was a breeze after twelve and thirteen hour days in the Arctic oil field. I was excited for that weekend, and distinctly remember it was a Friday. Even though it was a little nippy that morning, I thought of how the weekend would be spent blissfully in the burgeoning heat of the Alaskan sun. A lot can be dreamed from a dark cubicle sequestrated in the windowless interior of a highrise.
A coworker mentioned at noon that it was only 35F outside. Confused, I hustled to find an open conference room to look out the window.
It was the seventeenth of May! 17! I know most of you shudder at the thought of any snow ever, but it’s common pretty much any month ’round these parts. It was just so unusual and boggling after traipsing around Europe. I asked my boss to leave two hours early. (I think it was noon? I didn’t want to deal with people who don’t know how to drive in the powdery white stuff.)
It seems to be a new crowd every year. Either it’s the outdoorsy type who’ve always dreamed of the great Alaskan wilderness, moved here to work in the oil fields, or have been stationed at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson. At the first snow last winter, there were over sixty vehicles in the ditch on the fifty-mile commuter highway of Alaska 1. So I knew I had to beat the weekend traffic. It would be no doubt slowed to a crawl over the course of the afternoon due to accidents since the main artery of Anchorage and its surrounding communities is a puny four-laned highway.
This isn’t what May is supposed to look like. Yet Alaskan weather is akin to Irish weather. Schizophrenic. In which you have to scrape your windshield clear of ice in the morning, have AC blasting by afternoon, and then that evening have a dent in your truck from high winds pushing an errant cart smack into your insurance claim nightmare. However, “summer” usually starts at the beginning of May and lasts until September. Typically.
The Anchorage area set quite a few records on that unassuming date: the record lowest “high” temp of 37F, total snow accumulation of 0.5″ (officially at the weather station – other areas had from six to nine inches), as well as the longest snowfall season of 232 days.
And the next morning? All this white gunk was gone. Clear and 70F. All that worry about a ruined weekend for nothing.