Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in Anchorage and Mat-Su remained without power Wednesday morning as the city began to recover from overnight blasts of wind and rain.
Peak wind gusts across the Anchorage Bowl were in excess of 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service. On the Hillside, wind gusts exceeded 100 mph around midnight before the sensor lost power, according forecaster Joshua Maloy.
Between 7 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday, the Anchorage Fire Department responded to roughly 500 calls, according to spokesman Al Tamagni. In a usual night, the department goes to 50 to 80 calls. It had to prioritize because there weren't enough resources to respond to all of them immediately.
"The calls were mostly trees on (power) lines with arcing and sparking," he said. "We had a few tree and transformer fires."
In some cases, firefighters had to use chain saws to clear roadways, he said. There were no major fires or serious injuries, he said. Tamagni was out before dawn, driving down Lake Otis Parkway, he said. The wind was howling, trees were down and power lines were sparking.
"It was like a war zone," he said.
A majority of Municipal Light & Power's 30,000 Anchorage-area customers lost electricity at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, the utility said. Falling trees and branches cut power to another 25,000 Chugach Electric customers.
The Anchorage School District and University of Alaska Anchorage canceled classes as utility crews prowled the city, reviewing the damage.
"A lot of trees just came out of their roots," said ML&P General Manager Jim Posey, who woke to find a 50-foot aspen had fallen on his Ford F-150 in South Anchorage.
The storm arrived unusually early in the season, with leaves still on trees and soil soaked by rain. Wind caught trees like boat sails, whipping them from the ground, utilities said.
As of about 7 a.m., 22,000 Chugach customers and a majority of ML&P customers were without power, the utility said. Electricity had been restored downtown and in many areas of the city.
It's unclear when power will be restored to all areas with outages. Both power companies hoped to have electricity back by Wednesday night, though they warned the process could take until Thursday morning.
Stoplights were out at many city intersections Wednesday morning, with drivers treating the crossings as four-way stops.