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Storm Is Now the Norm in Alaskan Town

November 01, 1987|United Press International

YAKUTAT, Alaska — It's been so rainy in Yakutat that ducks have been taking shelter, town folk joke about seeing an old man walking around with animals in pairs and the weatherman is going to the Bahamas to dry out.

In most places, rainfall is measured in inches. In Yakutat, more than 8 feet of rain has fallen in the last two months, and so far this year Yakutat has had 16 1/2 feet of rain--record amounts. On Friday Yakutat was experiencing another unusual phenomenon--it was not raining.

If it seems like Yakutat has had more than its share of rain, the National Weather Service agrees. Yakutat, virtually single-handedly, is responsible for the drought in the Pacific Northwest. Meteorologists in Alaska have concluded that an unusual weather phenomenon steered storms to the north of their normal dumping grounds.

Yakutat, a fishing town of about 600 very wet people, is at the top of the southeast Alaska panhandle, near the point where Alaska, British Columbia and the Yukon Territory intersect.

"Do you know what a cormorant is?" asked Yakutat city planner Cheryl Easterwood, referring to the web-footed sea bird that dives for its food and was found taking shelter under her roof. "Well, I had a cormorant spend the night on my porch. If the ducks are getting in out of the rain, things are getting pretty bad."

31-Year-Old Record

John Cunningham, Yakutat's meteorologist, measures how bad. In September Yakutat got 48.34 inches of rain, breaking a 31-year-old record.

"That record didn't last long," Cunningham noted. In October, 48.81 inches fell. That pushed the annual rainfall to a new record--199.55 inches--with two months to go.

Noah thought he had it bad, but it has rained in Yakutat for 54 days and nights in just the last two months. There were four days in September when it did not rain, and October will end with three dry days, Cunningham said.

Yakutat's homes have no basements, there is one five-mile paved road, and everything is built atop a layer of subsurface gravel that seems to absorb moisture quite well so there has been no flooding in town.

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