If you notched a tree or took a photo of the high-snow mark five years ago, you may not believe it, but Haines has set an all-time record for a winter’s snowfall.
The 6.7 inches of snow that fell in town March 1 raised the season’s accumulation above the previous season high, 309 inches, set in 2006-7. As of Tuesday morning, total snowfall this winter was 318.9 inches, said Paul Swift, who measures precipitation daily for the National Weather Service at his Union Street home.
Warming trends in December and February that melted accumulated snow have made the record a little less obvious.
Swift hung a flag at the high-snow mark against a tree in his backyard in 2007. It’s 96 inches high. This week, the same snowbank is at 53 inches. The official, season high for snow on the ground downtown was 70 inches at the end of November.
Rain that fell in town in December was nearly exactly the liquid equivalent of the 11 feet of snow that came in November, said Annie Boyce, Swift’s wife. Swift and Boyce regularly hike up Mount Ripinsky, where a gauge at the mountain’s treeline (about 2,300 feet) shows 14 feet of snow on the ground.
Season-to-date snowfall is 74 percent above average. Haines averages 24 inches of snow in March.
Measuring snowfall, a process that includes capturing and melting snow, has kept Swift busy this year. “It takes about 30 or 40 minutes every morning when it snows, and longer when it snows a lot,” Swift said.
November and January each set monthly records for total snowfall this winter.
Other Alaska coastal cities are also setting or approaching records. Valdez, which sees an average of 321 inches of snow annually, is on a pace with its all-time record: 560 inches in 1988-89.