Air quality to improve for Labor Day weekend
Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer as many gear up to settle into school and await the arrival of fall.
For many, it's one last big vacation of the year thanks to the long weekend and continued summer-like weather. In Alaska, the temperatures are already beginning to vary greatly following what is one of the warmest summers on record.
Accompanying this summer were numerous wildfires that scorched The Last Frontier, which led to air quality advisories for many areas through the summer. But as summer unofficially comes to an end, many may find that they are beginning to breathe cleaner air.
If you're tired of the smoke and the health issues it causes, there's good news in the forecast. An incoming storm system that will bring parts of Southcentral more rain than it has seen in months will not only help the drought, but also in cleaning our air.
A three-day smoke prediction forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks shows just how this storm system will disperse the smoke ahead of the incoming storm.
So what does this mean for your Labor Day weekend travel plans? For many it will be a blessing and for others it could be a bit stormy. But one thing is for certain — the dissipating smoke and approaching storm system is a welcome sight following an extremely warm and dry summer.
Traveling to the Kenai
Flood advisories, smoke advisories and one of the driest summers on record have gripped the Kenai Peninsula for several months. The lack of rain has caused at least two Alaska communities to see their water supply dwindle.
However, a pattern shift is underway that will bring two rounds of storms to the Kenai, with some areas likely seeing some heavy rain.
Round one of storms is expected to arrive Friday night and last through Saturday afternoon. While the heaviest of the rain looks to hold off until round 2 of storms, many areas could see upwards of half an inch of rain. The biggest impacts from this storm will be how it affects the smoke. Smoke will push off to the west through the night Friday into Saturday, eventually leaving many places smoke free into the afternoon hours. However, be mindful that it will be cloudy and cool through Saturday with highs in the mid to upper 50s.
Round number two of storms is set to arrive Sunday morning and last well into Monday. This storm will likely put a damper on any Labor Day plans, as the western side of the Kenai could see anywhere from 1 to 2 inches of rain, with Seward likely pushing 3 inches. With cloudy skies and heavy rain in the forecast temperatures will once more be on the cooler side in the mid-50s.
While the air quality will greatly improve, areas near the Swan Lake Fire could still see some smoke linger. However, a large portion of the Kenai will be smoke free thanks to the rain and northward push of the storm into the Kenai.
If you are planning on traveling to the Kenai over Labor Day weekend, you'll want to make sure you pack the rain gear. You can leave the respirator mask at home.
Traveling to Mat-Su
The valley, much like a large portion of Southcentral, has been dealing with wildfires, smoky conditions, brutal heat and windy conditions through most of the summer.
For those tired of the smoke and wanting to head into the valley for Labor Day you are in luck, as smoke is expected to clear out as early as Saturday afternoon into the evening.
While rain won't be as heavy in the valley, some much needed rain will still help drought situations. Friday night into Saturday morning will bring some light rain showers to the valley with less than a quarter of an inch possible for the area, with overall storm totals through Monday pushing half an inch.
While it won't be a washout, the rain could hinder some plans through the weekend, with afternoon highs in the 60s.
Traveling to Anchorage, Girdwood or Whittier
If you have any plans to stay closer to home, the forecast won't change much.
Smoke, like the surrounding areas, will clear out into the weekend with sprinkles to light showers possible by Saturday afternoon. While heavier rain will be possible in higher elevations, the overall trend shows that the heaviest rain looks to hold off until Sunday into Monday.
It's this storm that could bring anywhere from 2 to 4 inches of rain to Whittier, with Anchorage and Girdwood seeing lighter amounts of less than a half an inch. While rain will be hard to come by for the Anchorage Bowl, the smoke clearing out with temperatures in the 50s and 60s will be a pleasant surprise.
Traveling to the Interior
If you're looking to miss the rain, the Interior is your ultimate destination. Sunshine and haze will still be in the forecast, with air quality likely to remain moderate or lower into the weekend.
While a few spot showers can't be ruled out Sunday into Monday, Labor Day weekend will largely remain dry with highs in the mid to upper 60s. There are a few days where smog could be in the forecast, but the overall pattern suggests pleasant weather with minor smoke problems.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
MORE WEATHER NEWS: