More storms headed toward Anchorage

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 17, 2012 

Another windstorm is expected to hit Anchorage on Wednesday, with forecasters warning of potential gusts of 85 to 110 mph on the upper Hillside and gusts to 45 mph across much of the rest of the city.Meteorologist Shaun Baines with the National Weather Service said the strong winds will spread across the city over the course of the day, with the highest winds starting on the upper Hillside early in the morning. Winds will pick up on the lower Hillside, East Anchorage and Eagle River later in the morning, with gusts to 60 mph, and rest of the Anchorage Bowl receiving its strongest winds, with gusts to 45 mph, on Wednesday afternoon, the Weather Service said.

This is the third serious wind storm to hit Anchorage this month. The Wednesday storm was expected to bring variable conditions with rain, similar to last weekend's storm, Baines said. "It will be a very short duration event," he said.

Weather Service officials seemed more concerned by the likelihood of flooding in Southcentral Alaska, which they said could rival the serious flooding of October, 2006. Three days of rain are forecast, adding to the rain received in the last storm.

Rain gauges recorded from 9 to 14 inches at locations around the region. The gauge at the Cordova Boat Harbor recorded 17.7 inches between Sept. 15 and 17.

"Systems have been primed by the event over the weekend," said weather service hydrologist Ben Balk.

Area rivers and streams are at or just below flood stage right now and what Balk called a "fire hose of moisture" is aiming at Prince William Sound. The "hydrant" for the hose is in the Pacific Ocean at around 30 degrees latitude right now. High pressure along the west coast of the U.S. is forcing it north.

A satellite image on Tuesday afternoon showed a straight band of warm, moisture-laden air perhaps 300 miles across and several thousand miles long pointing like an arrow from the mid-Pacific to Barter Island. Resurrection Bay is roughly in the middle of the band.

"If that firehose points at the eastern Kenai Peninsula, the Seward area will be a concern," Balk said.

The record crest for the Resurrection River, just under 20 feet, was reached in the 2006 flood. "As of last weekend, it got up to 18 1/2 feet or so," Balk said.

If the hose points east, it will mean trouble for Cordova, another community hit hard by the 2006 flood. Eyak Lake is at flood stage. Homes around the lake and the Eyak River could flood as levels rise.

In addition to Cordova and Seward, the weather service has its eye on Valdez, the Anchorage bowl and the Susitna valley, all of which have streams near capacity and can expect more precipitation. The winds will die down on Wednesday night, they say. But periods of heavy rain may continue into Saturday.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.

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