AD Main Menu

Powerful wind gust hammers JBER construction site

Michelle Theriault Boots
Brian Christie describes a swirling wind gust that he witnessed lift a construction site guard shack into the air as it smashed through a fence, crush his a parked car, before coming to rest across a street on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012. Christie estimated the wind gust at 100 mph. He was walking out to his car at the time of the wind gust and said, "I was 60 seconds away from being dead."
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A truck was knocked over by a localized wind gust that caused havoc at a construction site on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012.
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News
A piece of wood was embedded into the windshield of Brian Christie's car when a construction site guard shack crushed his vehicle after being lifted into the air by a swirling wind gust that he estimated at 100 mph on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012. Christie he was walking out to his car at the time of the wind gust and said, "I was 60 seconds away from being dead."
BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News

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.


By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Anchorage Daily News