As three mushers made the long run from Ophir to Iditarod Wednesday, unexpectedly warm weather would wreck havoc on those chasing them.
Lance Mackey, Sonny Lindner and Jeff King were the only ones to begin the 80-mile trek, and as of Wednesday night none have yet arrived at their destination. Lindner passed Mackey and appears to be set to reach Iditarod first, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The first musher to reach the checkpoint receive a $3,000 award in gold.
Blogging for Iditarod.com, Joe Runyan reports visibility due to snow and blowing snow has decreased to the point that air traffic has been grounded. Weather is only supposed to play a bigger factor from here, and it's not all of the winter variety:
Winds are forecast to blow along the Iditarod trail to checkpoint Iditarod up to 50 mph and on the Yukon trail sections. (see map, but basically the trail for the lead pack for the next several days.)
Furthermore, temperatures may rise to 50F, which is is just totally off the chart for Interior Alaska, and bring with it rain and maybe sleet.
Runyan added that photographers further up the trail have described it as "oatmeal," which obviously makes pulling a sled even more difficult for the dog teams, slowing down progress. He added that mushers typically prepare for winter weather and do not expect to run into rain when crossing the Alaskan interior.
Six teams remained in Ophir, including early race leader Martin Buser and Jake Berkowitz. Further back on the trail, defending champion Dallas Seavey could be found at Takotna, where he appears to be taking his 24-hour layover. Aaron Burmeister and Aliy Zirkle, last year's runner-up, also took 24-hour stops there and should soon continue their runs to Nome a bit ahead of him.