Susan C. Anthony
Mailboxes buried in snow

Wild Weather

Summer 2004

In the summer of 2004, we thought that with all the snow, as well as good rains in May, there would be little fire danger in the summer. Not so! When May ended, the rain stopped, for the entire summer. From the beginning of June to the last week in August, we had just 2" of rain! On June 14, there were 8,500 lightning strikes statewide, an all-time record that set the state afire. The new record fell July 15 when 9,022 lightning strikes ignited 11 new fires. The fires burned almost 6.5 million acres, topping the old record by 1.5 million.

Sticky smoke filled the summer sky. Fourth of July weekend, the smoke was so dense at our homestead (100 miles south of the nearest fire), that we canceled a planned trip for us and friends from out of state. We stayed home and enjoyed nature's own Fourth of July light show! Lightning ripped apart the sky all over Anchorage and struck a pond just across the street from us.

Summer was HOT! 6° to 10° above average. In August, the temperature topped 70° for 21 days, shattering record after record. In the first several years I lived in Alaska, the temperature never once reached 70°! The heat contributed to an algae bloom in the lake at our homestead that turned the water a sickening pea green. Beavers exacerbated the destruction by damming up the outlet stream, raising the level of the lake and blocking the salmon run. When we visited the homestead, Dennis said it seemed like the end of the world!

Summer ended and the rains finally came. 9.7" of rain in September alone, the second most of any month in recorded Alaska history!

Then came snow. On November 3, it was warm and snowing heavily. Not a single vehicle that tried to make it up the hill opposite our driveway succeeded. Vehicles did pirouettes down the hill, utterly out of control! Several people managed to avoid damaging their cars, but then the crashes started, culminating with a three-car pileup in our driveway (no photos because I couldn't get through the pileup to get a camera). It was like bumper cars at an amusement park! Incredibly, our mailbox was spared, for the moment. Since then our fence and mailbox have both been knocked down, repeatedly. All that snow soon melted, and January closed with only inches on the ground!

The winter of 2003-04 was the last entire winter we spent in Alaska. We don't regret making a change.

Go on to read Lazarus
Source:, ©Susan C. Anthony