Terminal Conditions

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Later in this past week, we saw something here in Anchorage that was yet another sign of the coming winter.  I’ve heard it called Termination Dust, or Termination Snow, but whatever you call it – the key word is Termination.  The Chugach Mountains that lie to the east of town (like, just east — the town goes up the sides of it and run all easterly close along all the towns in our area) are not mountains that remain snow covered year round.  There are glaciers deeper into the mountains, but from town and from cities along the Knik Arm & Mat-Su valley for months those mountains are a grey-green.  On wetter cooler days here in town, what doesn’t make it as rain here does become wet stuff at higher elevations.  Cold enough up there, and it will snow; but that doesn’t mean the snow gets past the mountain tops and doesn’t reach here.

So what you get is mountain peaks typically green with wispy touches of white across it.  At first it looks like my beard when I haven’t shaved in a few days.  Sparse and spotty.  The accent of white on green is, however, unmistakable.  When you see it, you see it.

Termination dust, though, holds big meaning here.  Termination dust represents the termination of summer.  At this point, there is no chance of summer coming back.  Sure, it’s hard for anyone to say that summer is still going on right now.  We get freeze warnings regularly.   It is noticeably chilly every day.  The leaves are turning, the grass is starting to go dormant, and all the tourists have gone home.   Termination dust means that whatever you need to get done before winter has to get done now.

I teased some of my friends who live out in the valley when a couple weeks ago they spotted termination dust, and I kept saying “It’s not true unless I see it.”  On Thursday, I saw it.

Before you start rubbing in the snow on me, think about this … I saw termination dust on Sept 20th for the first time.  Last year we had snow on the ground in Anchorage on Sept 15th.  So, this is actually quite late.  Snow/rain mix is in the forecast for the week, and last night I heard the first set of studded tires driving down the road.  Summer may be terminated, but winter hasn’t started yet.

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