Lower elevations escape high winds

Michelle Theriault Boots
The trail along Chester Creek, under Arctic Boulevard at Valley of the Moon Park, was underwater Sunday afternoon as the creek rose. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the creek.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Corine DePriest plows through high water along the Chester Creek trail near Arctic Boulevard with her dog, Obi. "I can't believe it's so high!"
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
The trail along Chester Creek, under Arctic Boulevard at the west end of Valley of the Moon Park, was underwater early Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the creek, and a flood advisory for other streams in the city.
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News

Update, 5:15 p.m.: The high wind warning for the Anchorage area has been canceled. A flood warning remains in effect for Chester Creek, with high water along the creek, especially near Westchester Lagoon. A flood advisory for other streams in the Anchorage area also remains in effect.

As the storm moves northward, there are concerns about flooding in the Susitna Valley. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for drainages coming out of the Talkeetna Mountains toward the Parks Highway, including Willow and Montana creeks. See current water levels there and elsewhere here.

Winds of more than 100 mph were recorded on the upper Hillside overnight, including a gust of 120 mph at Bear Valley on an unofficial wind gauge, according to the Weather Service. But widespread damage has not been reported, and lower elevations were spared high winds for the most part. Scattered power outages were reported through the day.

This is a developing story. Check back for further updates.


Earlier story:

Lower elevations of the Anchorage Bowl have largely been spared the heavy, destructive winds initially forecast as a rain and windstorm moves through the area Sunday. But the city remains under a high wind warning until 8 p.m., and forecasters are saying high winds are possible at some lower elevations this afternoon.

Standing water was reported in some low-lying areas around the city, and a flood warning was issued for Chester Creek. Water was especially high at its western end, near Westchester Lagoon. A flood advisory is in effect for others streams around the city and Eagle River, with potential for minor flooding, the Weather Service said.

Overnight winds never reached the strength forecasters had predicted in some areas, said NWS meteorologist John Papineau.

"We didn't get the wind lower down in town, especially on the Eastside, as strong as we thought it was going to be," he said.

Winds were strong enough to knock out power to some Chugach Electric customers in East Anchorage, on the Hillside and along Turnagain Arm.

In the early hours of Sunday morning more than 1,700 lost power in the area, according to company spokesman Phil Steyer. The outages were caused by downed trees, he said. Power was restored to most customers by mid-morning.

At about 10:15 a.m., communities along Turnagain Arm lost power when a transmission line between Anchorage and Cooper Landing was de-energized, according to Steyer. Power was restored by 11:30 a.m., according to Chugach Electric.

Around noon, Chugach reported a problem with its O'Malley Road substation that cut power to 766 customers.

With some data collection posts on the Hillside not functioning meteorologists say they don't know exactly how high peak winds got overnight.

Unofficial reports coming from Bear Valley had wind speeds peaking at 120 mph and 112 mph at Glen Alps, according to the NWS.

Lower elevations of East Anchorage saw high guests between 30-40 mph overnight and Sunday morning, he said.

It's unlikely that very strong winds will follow throughout the day Sunday in that area.

"Most of the potential is pretty much going away this morning," Papineau said.

Still, the storm isn't over, meteorologists say.

On Sunday, winds on the upper hillside and along Turnagain Arm are likely to peak between 10 a.m. and noon, the Weather Service said.

Lower elevations in South and West Anchorage could see 35-50 mph winds this afternoon and evening, said forecaster Emily Niebuhr. The Turnagain Arm and upper Hillside could see winds reach 50-75 mph.

Moderate rain is expected throughout the afternoon in the city.

Some Anchorage city streets are heavily puddled with water, including those around the University of Alaska - Anchorage campus and throughout midtown.

The Weather Service has issued flood advisories for Anchorage streams including Chester Creek, Campbell Creek, Ship Creek and Eagle River.

So far, the most dramatic rise in water, Papineau said, is at Chester Creek, an urban stream with close neighbors.

Culverts choked with tree limbs and debris are causing parts of Chester Creek to back up, especially near where the creek crosses Spenard Road, said city emergency manager Rob Fitch. The city has five crews in the area using a special claw-like piece of equipment to clear it, he said.

"They clear it and then another tree comes floating down," he said. "It's going to take a while for it to drain out."

The city and Anchorage Fire Department officials are asking people not to attempt to clear culverts themselves.

"People are out at the culverts trying to clear it with rakes," Fitch said. "But the water is rushing by pretty fast. We don't want people taking their lives into their hands."

The high wind warning remains in effect for the Anchorage Bowl through 8 p.m. Sunday, the NWS said.

All current Alaska weather warnings and advisories here.

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