- Associated Press - Saturday, January 3, 2015

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Seven Alaska communities have recorded their hottest annual average temperatures ever in 2014.

The relatively warm weather sent dogsled teams traveling hundreds of miles to find reliable snow for training, and interrupted rural travel along rivers that would normally be safely frozen.

The Kuskokwim River usually becomes a highway artery for the community in winter, but it wasn’t drivable for an unusually long time, said Annastasia Hoffman, President of the Bethel Native Corporation.

“We have been seeing more and more commuters, who would travel into Bethel for work, have to stay in Bethel because they cannot commute due to the warm weather,” Hoffman said.

The warm weather blanketed most of western and southwestern Alaska and stretched to nearly every corner of the state, the National Weather Service Alaska said.

Some Alaska communities hit climate records that were held for 70 years or more, said Rick Thoman, climate sciences and services manager for the Weather Service in Alaska.

“It’s quite unusual, and it’s also quite a large area,” Thoman said. “We also have a number of places - Anchorage, Barrow, St. Paul - that also made it into the top three warmest years.”

In Anchorage, 2014 was the first recorded calendar year when the temperature failed to fall below zero, researchers wrote on the weather agency’s Facebook page. In Bethel, it was the first winter in recorded history where temperatures didn’t fall to 20 degrees below zero, Thoman said.

Communities that broke the record for highest-average temperature recorded in a single year include Cold Bay, King Salmon, Homer, Bethel, McGrath, Nome and Kotzebue.

But despite the concerns, not everyone misses the cold, KTUU reported (https://bit.ly/1BurzST ).

“We’re so excited,” said Cynthia Erickson, a community member of Tanana. “The children love it. We have bonfires and are just outside all the time. The only concern is we hope there is more snow for insulation because we know the cold is coming.”

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Information from: KTUU-TV, https://www.ktuu.com

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