Everyone up north is starting to feel the very first signs that a longer day is on its way. It starts at the end of February every year. That is when the sun starts staying up during everyone’s drive home from work. Instead of darkness at 5 p.m. on the road system, drivers are hit with a glaring sun just above the steering wheel and just below the sun visor. The vehicles ahead of them can hardly be seen due to the blinding sunlight in their faces. This is normally when the smart drivers get out their “shades” to protect their eyes as they drive. This not only impacts the drive home. It also impacts the morning commute as the sun is now coming up around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. across the state.
It is usually a good idea to get glasses with protection for the sides, too. The low sun also affects drivers’ vision on the left and right sides of the roads. Several roads on the system have trees spaced along the side that creates a strobe-like effect on drivers as they travel in and out of the shaded road at 55 mph. Anyone who has eye problems is definately impacted by these low sunsets and sunrises. Add other obstacles, like moose crossing the road, and cars not using their lights, and accidents are likely to happen.
Despite the difficult drying issues, these late days in February are pleasing for those who suffer from the lack of sunlight in the winter months. They are the ones with the bright lamps in their homes to grab more Vitamin D that they cannot get naturally.
At winter solstice in late December, the sun rises in south-central Alaska at about 10:15 a.m and sets at 3:45 p.m. That is only a 5 1/2 hour day. For the next six months, the state’s day just gets longer until June, the time of the “Midnight Sun”, and the summer solstice.
So, as the earth continues to move from winter to summer in the northern hemisphere and from summer to winter in the southern hemisphere, Alaskans will continue to have one of the best seats in Mother Nature’s house to watch this annual transition. It includes migrating birds, whales and fish. It involves snow melting at a rapid pace from mountains, fields and valleys, causing temporary lakes all across the state until the ground and heat of the sky can absorb all of the excess moisture. Alaskans will be preparing for what is called “break-up”, when ice roads and snow roads thaw out for the season. The ground, which has been frozen since November, will defrost. Rivers that have been frozen all winter will literally melt. If it melts too quickly, and the ice starts traveling downstream too quickly, the ice will grab everything that it can. This has included: man-made docks, trees, stairs, and anything else along the banks that can be dragged down into the water.
From this point, life starts returning to the state in numerous ways. Hibernation will start ending for the bears. Some of the migrating birds begin arriving from the south. Alaskans start putting up their winter gear. The first cruise ships start arriving in their ports. And, everyone starts to get ready for the state to double in population as visitors come to the Last Frontier for a look at life in the wild, instead of concrete.