Freezing rain and snow greets Iditarod teams on the coast
It's all relative. Weather conditions that would prompt warnings and advisories in the Lower 48 go by as if a daily occurrence along Alaska's west coast. Strong wind, snow and even some freezing rain welcomed the rising sun on Monday and will again Tuesday.
There is plenty for mushers and their teams to contend with in the coming days.
Freezing rain came down Monday morning in Unalakleet, welcoming mushers to the weather that is western Alaska. By sunset, temperatures had once again dropped below freezing allowing all precipitation to switch back to snow.
Another 1-2" of snow is possible with winds shifting from the north to the East Tuesday afternoon.
As the teams press north along the coast, it will be a steady head wind they battle along the way. The stretch consists of boreal forest (also called taiga), open stretches, exposed ridge tops and a final stretch on the barren coastline.
The leg from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik is known for being a battle against the elements, even in the best conditions. This year it's not as severe as some, but will remain active.
On a stretch of the trail aptly described as bleak and deadly monotonous, weather becomes an even bigger contender. Shaktoolik to Koyuk is almost entirely on the ice, exposed to the elements.
Freezing rain, a wintry mix, northerly winds and low visibility made for a long 50 miles of mushing on the ice of Norton Sound Monday.
Temperatures are dropping heading into Tuesday, which means light snow is possible. On the ice, snow will blend with ice and the sky, making it difficult to see and navigate along the barren stretch.
As mushers head north to Koyuk, freezing rain will no longer be a concern as temperatures will fall to the teens overnight and 20s during the day. Light snow will continue, but less than 2" is likely over the next 24 hours.
Leaving Koyuk, mushers turn southwest as they head for Elim.
Wind becomes a big factor here as the usually well-marked snowmachine trail can be lost in blowing and drifting snow. Winds will hold out of the north at 15 mph through Tuesday, but by Wednesday this area will likely see winds up to 25 mph.
Elim to Golovin is a 28-mile stretch that is considered to be one of the more interesting stretches of the Iditarod. Depending on the extent of sea ice, mushers may elect to take different routes.
This stretch also includes the most difficult mountain climb of the second half of the trail. The 1,000-foot summit is exposed to the elements and the descent can be about as challenging as the climb.
Temperatures Tuesday will hold in the low 20s after starting out in the teens. This is perfect for dogs running up the steep slope, but wind will once again become a factor. Northerly winds around 15 mph will decrease visibility.
Stick with the KTVA Weather Team as we continue to provide you updated coverage on the weather for the 2019 Iditarod, on air, on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
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