FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Alaska's biggest annual guessing game has begun in earnest, with workers setting up equipment that will note the time the Tanana River ice starts to move.
Crews set up a tripod Sunday on the icy river in the tiny community of Nenana, about 55 miles south of Fairbanks, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Monday (http://is.gd/PTX0qy). As soon as the ice begins to move, the tripod tips on the shifting ice and stops a clock.
The 98-year-old game is a popular form of wagering in Alaska, drawing entries from across the state and elsewhere. People pay $2.50 a guess to predict when the ice will give way.
Last year's classic produced a jackpot of $318,500.
Several dozen spectators watched Sunday as Jeff Mayrand and his crew raised the tripod on the ice, which usually moves between late April and the first two weeks of May.
Mayrand said the relative warmth of this winter likely wouldn't have much of an impact on the ice moving.
He said the ice pack under the tripod measures 34 inches thick. That's slightly below average, but it's not as low as some might have guessed after the warm winter so far.
The thickness of the ice pack might have been helped by lower-than-average temperatures during parts of February.
"It'll pick up a couple of inches over the next few weeks before it starts to melt," Mayrand said. "It's thinner than usual but not all that bad."
But the thickness of the ice doesn't necessarily equate to it breaking up earlier or later.
For example, the ice measured 41 inches in January 1998, one of two years when the ice broke up April 20. The ice thickness was 41 inches thick in early March 2001, when the ice broke up May 8.
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com