High winds, temperatures whip up mayhem from Kodiak to Willow

dkelly@adn.comJanuary 17, 2014 

A band of wet, warm weather barreled into Southcentral Alaska on Friday and stirred up an odd blend of high winds, slushy roads and even rainbow sightings.

Peak gust speeds of more than 90 mph were reported in Bear Valley and at Glen Alps, and gusts elsewhere on the Anchorage Hillside approached 70 mph , according to the National Weather Service.

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson recorded a gust of 67 mph, said Dave Stricklan, a meteorologist with the Anchorage forecast office.

The winds and warm temperatures, which reached 48 degrees in some parts of Anchorage Friday, prompted a series of avalanche warnings to the south. For the first time this season, Department of Transportation crews headed out to reduce avalanche risk by blasting artillery at spots along the Seward Highway.

Gun mounts were fired at highway mileposts 99, 97, 87, 44, 37 and 21, said Matt Murphy, an avalanche specialist with DOT.

Murphy said crews successfully reduced the hazard. "I think we got the results we were expecting," he said.

Drivers were delayed up to about 45 minutes while the artillery efforts were underway. The DOT began shooting around 10:30 a.m. and finished up around 3 p.m., Murphy said.

As temperatures jumped into the 40s across the region, heavy rain triggered mudslides on a road in Kodiak as well as flooding in the Seward area, officials said.

And there were other interruptions. Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood closed down for skiers and snowboarders Friday because of the rain and wind. A spokeswoman said the resort expected to be back up and running on Saturday.

Strong winds in Eklutna and Peters Creek and heavy, wet snow in the Susitna Valley caused power outages affecting more than 2,000 customers, from Peters Creek to Willow and the Talkeeta Spur Road, the Matanuska Electric Association said on Facebook. The cooperative said that the storms could cause intermittent outages in the northern reaches until trees shed snow loads.

Gusting winds also damaged several windows at the FBI building in downtown Anchorage sometime early Friday afternoon, said Deirdre Fike, agent in charge of the FBI's Alaska office. One entire pane was broken out, with insulation dangling out, and the middle of another pane appeared to have cracked and fallen out.

Yellow tape blocked the sidewalk along Sixth Avenue after Anchorage police were called in to close the left lane of the street. The damaged windows open up over the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue, which prompted the call to police, Fike said.

"We wanted to make sure nobody was hurt by blowing glass," Fike said. She added the windows don't directly open up into the FBI building.

The FBI plans to place plywood over the windows until the damage can be repaired. Some had previous damage, and the high winds appeared to hit the weak points, Fike said.

Southcentral Alaska was not alone in dealing with winter weather. Elsewhere in the state, blowing snow created blizzard-like conditions from St. Lawrence Island to the northern Arctic coast.

The Nome Airport closed down, and one plane broke from its moorings and flipped over onto its nose, said Jim Hancock, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Nome.

Hancock said he also heard reports of a newly built house outside of town being ripped off its foundations by winds gusting to 62 mph.

Reporters Tegan Hanlon and Casey Grove contributed. Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.

 

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