Powerful wind gust hammers JBER construction site

Construction workers say freak blast lasted about 10 seconds.

Anchorage Daily NewsSeptember 19, 2012 

A solitary, violent gust of wind wreaked havoc on a construction site at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during Wednesday's storm, tossing guard shacks and equipment like toys and causing thousands of dollars in damage.

The gust, which witnesses estimated at 100 mph, hit at 5th and D streets on the Fort Richardson side of the base at around 10:30 a.m., spokesman Luke Waack said.

The wind speed was not recorded by military or National Weather Service observation stations on base.

The morning had been only breezy before the freak wind blast, said Brian Christie a 37-year-old journeyman plumber from Wasilla who was working for Hunter Mechanical on the construction of a new building.

Christie was carrying tools to his car when the wind barreled in. It was like a whirlpool or a tornado, he said, sucking up and shredding two shed-sized guard shacks and shooting two-by-fours and insulation flying through the air.

Poured concrete blocks toppled over. A shipping trailer anchored to the ground pivoted from the force.

Christie's safety glasses blew off his face. His hard hat lifted off his head.

Then, from about 150 feet away, he watched debris from the guard shacks flatten his 1997 Pontiac Sunfire, admittedly a "beater of a car," he said, but one he was fond of.

If he had been closer it might have flattened him.

"I feel like I was 30 seconds away from death," he said.

He found a piece of wood embedded like a dagger in the windshield, he said.

National Weather Service meteorologists say the cause of such wind gusts are complex and they can't know what caused this one without more details.

The wind lasted only about 10 seconds, Christie said.

"It was like a rogue wave or something," he said. "So fast, so furious, so wicked insane."


Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.

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