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Warm weather makes mess of Anchorage streets; wind gusts to 80 mph at Glen Alps

Tegan Hanlon,Devin Kelly
A burst of freezing rain hit Anchorage just after 8 a.m. Friday, icing streets and causing traffic jams on northbound streets in Midtown. This was the scene on Lake Otis Parkway at 15th Avenue/Debarr Road.
ANNE RAUP
Clearing skies to the southwest produced a rainbow after a day of messy weather Friday afternoon, January 17, 2014.
Andy Romang
Traffic on A Street moved slowly but steadily after freezing rain made the morning commute rough for many on Friday, January 17, 2014.
Anne Raup
Jennifer Schmid (in pink) and a bicycle commuter tried unsuccessfully to push a car off a berm Friday morning after it slid on the rain-slickened ice at the corner of Gambell and 15th. Later, William Wittey and another good Samaritan pulled the car off the berm with a tow strap attached to a pickup.
Anne Raup
Traffic begins to flow again up the Ingra hill towards 15th Avenue after the road was sanded. Freezing rain made for a complicated morning drive time for many Friday January 17, 2014.
Anne Raup
A sand truck makes its way up Ingra Street early Friday morning after it had been closed because six semis had been unable to make it up the hill. Freezing rain made for a complicated morning drive time for many Friday, January 17, 2014.
Anne Raup
A rainbow makes a late-afternoon appearance as gusts of wind bend spruce trees Friday afternoon along Hillside Drive.
Erik Hill
Traffic backed up on northbound Ingra Street approaching 15th Avenue during the morning commute Friday after trucks and other vehicles got stuck on a hill iced over by freezing rain.
ANNE RAUP
Windows of the downtown Anchorage FBI building were damaged during the winds of Friday's weather. Peak winds were recorded in Bear Valley January 17, 2014.
Casey Grove

UPDATE 4:20 PM FRIDAY:

Gusting winds damaged several windows at the FBI building in downtown Anchorage on Friday.

Anchorage police were called in to close down the left lane of Sixth Avenue between A Street and Barrow Street. The damaged windows open up over the sidewalk on Sixth Avenue, which prompted the call to police, said Deirdre Fike, agent in charge of the FBI's Alaska office. 

"We wanted to make sure nobody was hurt by blowing glass," Fike said.

Sometime early Friday afternoon, the winds blew in one windowpane and cracked two others, Fike said. 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.

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.

Fike added that the windows don't directly open up into the FBI building.

The National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of 37 miles per hour at Merrill Field, said Dave Stricklan, a meteorologist with the Anchorage office. Much higher gusts are being recorded on the Hillside, with peak gusts in some places approaching 70 mph.

The highest gust speeds recorded in the Anchorage area were 95 mph in Bear Valley, closely followed by 93 mph at Glen Alps.

Upper Hillside hit gusts of 78 mph, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson recorded a gust of 67 mph.

A high wind warning remains in effect until 9 p.m.

UPDATE, 3:55 PM FRIDAY:

Windows at the FBI building in downtown Anchorage were damaged by strong winds on Friday, police said in on Twitter.

Anchorage police were responding to the incident. The left lane on 6th Avenue between A Street and Barrow Street is currently closed, the tweet said.

UPDATE 3:30 PM FRIDAY:

Strong winds in Eklutna and Peters Creek and heavy, wet snow in the Susitna Valley have caused three small outages and left about 120 homes or businesses without power, Matanuska Electric Association says.

A wide range of weather from the storm swamping Southcentral could also lead to intermittent outages in the cooperative's northern reaches until trees shed snow loads, MEA said in an update posted Friday afternoon on Facebook.

Crews are repairing a downed line in Peters Creek and responding to a nearby outage in the Eklutna area. Caswell Lakes has another outage due to snow loads and crews are on their way.

UPDATE 2 PM FRIDAY: 

The National Weather Service in Anchorage says rain and temperatures in the 40s will continue through the evening, with water pooling on road ice and slush making driving difficult. 

A high wind warning remained in effect until 9 p.m., with unofficial gusts above 80 mph reported at Glen Alps and around 70 mph on the lower Anchorage Hillside and along Turnagain Arm.  

Gusts of 20 to 30 mph were being recorded in many locations across the Anchorage Bowl.

UPDATE 11:30 AM FRIDAY: 

Overnight rain and fast-melting snow  started to flood the Seward area Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service issued an urban and small stream flood advisory for the western Prince William Sound region, including Seward, effective until 4 p.m. Saturday.

The storm may drop up to 4 inches of precipitation, heavy at times, on the area through  Saturday afternoon, the weather service said. 

"Rain will cause considerable ponding of water in low-lying areas," the advisory said. 

Forecasters predict highs in the upper 30s and 40s Friday for Seward, dipping into the 30s overnight. 

UPDATE 10:30 AM FRIDAY: 

The National Weather Service has extended the freezing rain advisory for the Anchorage area until 2 p.m. Friday. 

It's not so much freezing rain that's the problem but rain that's pooling on icy roads and creating hazardous driving conditions, said Dave Stricklan, meteorologist with the  Weather Service. 

Forecasters are not anticipating any ice accumulation. 

Warmer afternoon temperatures should improve driving conditions, the  Weather Service said.

UPDATE 10 AM FRIDAY: 

 Alyeska Ski Resort in Girdwood will not open for skiers and snowboarders Friday because of heavy rain and high winds, according to a post on the resort's Facebook page. 

Seven Glaciers Restaurant and Glacier Express snack bar in the upper tram terminal will also be closed Friday. 

The Rabbit Creek Ramblers concert scheduled for tonight in the Sitzmark Bar & Grill is still on, Alyeska says. 

UPDATE 9:45 AM FRIDAY: 

Ingra Street has reopened after the six stuck tractor trailers were moved from the icy hill approaching 15th Avenue, police said.

A sanding truck was sent to sand that stretch of road, said Anita Shell, police spokeswoman. 

UPDATE 9 AM FRIDAY:

The Seward Highway will be periodically closed Friday for avalanche hazard reduction work between Girdwood and Seward. 

Drivers should expect up to 45-minute delays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. near Mile 21, 37, 44, 87, 97 and 99, said Jill Reese, Department of Transportation spokeswoman.   

UPDATE 8:30 AM FRIDAY: 

Police have diverted northbound Seward Highway traffic at Fireweed Lane after six tractor trailers got stuck going northbound up the icy hill on Ingra Street approaching 15th Avenue, according to a police spokeswoman. 

The right lane on Ingra Street is blocked and drivers are advised to avoid the area, said Anita Shell, police spokeswoman.

Police have responded to 20 vehicles in distress, three accidents and one injury accident since midnight, she said.  

Rain falling on the Anchorage area this morning has only made road and sidewalk conditions more slick, according to forecasters with National Weather Service. 

“You know how it is when you have the ice and then you throw water on top of it,” said Dave Stricklan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 

A freezing rain advisory is in effect until 10 a.m. Friday. 

Forecasters have slightly downgraded wind gusts headed for the Anchorage area Friday from 95 mph to  70 to 85 mph.

The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning in effect until 9 p.m. for the Turnagain Arm and higher Anchorage elevations. 

Temperatures should hover in the 30s in most of the city but may get up to the lower 40s along Turnagain Arm and higher elevations. 

CHECK BACK FOR UPDATES ON THIS DEVELOPING STORY.

ORIGINAL STORY:

A windstorm packing gusts up to 95 miles per hour is headed for the Anchorage area, forecasters said.

The National Weather Service issued a high-wind warning from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday for Turnagain Arm and higher Anchorage elevations like the Upper Hillside. The warning predicted southeast winds of 45 to 60 mph with gusts between 80 and 95 mph.

Winds will increase steadily through the day and reach peak intensity in the afternoon, the weather service said in a bulletin.

"People are urged to secure loose objects that could be blown around or damaged by the wind," the bulletin said.

A backcountry avalanche warning was also issued Thursday for the Kenai and Western Chugach Mountains in and near the eastern Turnagain Arm area. The mix of heavy precipitation, warm temperatures and high winds will create unstable avalanche conditions, forecasters with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center said.

The warning is in effect from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. It does not include ski areas or highways.

On the Prince William Sound, Friday's predictions of high winds and 13-foot ocean swells canceled the sailing of a state ferry. The Aurora normally sails Thursday through Monday in the winter, said Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Because of the strong winds, the captain of the ferry decided to forgo a Friday round-trip sailing from Whittier to Cordova, Woodrow said.

He added that such a cancellation is uncommon.

"It has to be pretty strong winter weather," he said.

Roughly 30 passengers were affected. Woodrow said the ferry will likely sail Saturday, if weather permits.

Along with high winds, rain is expected to pelt the northern gulf coast on Friday and then move into Anchorage by Saturday.

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.

 

National Weather Service warnings
By TEGAN HANLON and DEVIN KELLY
dkelly@adn.com