Gusty winds blowing Saturday in Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley caused widespread power outages and forced the early end to the popular Relay for Life charity event.
After several lines went down Saturday morning, between 70 to 80 percent of downtown Anchorage lost power, said Municipal Light and Power spokeswoman Ronnie Dent. Outages were also reported in the Government Hill and Rogers Park areas. At the height of the outage, 2,422 customers were without power, including the Alaska Railroad yard, Dent said.
Dent said power was mostly restored by the early afternoon.
The overnight cold front dropped temperatures below freezing at elevations of 1,500 feet and above, according to the National Weather Service, sweeping in a fresh layer of early summer snow. At the Glen Alps trail head on Saturday morning, a constant stream of hardy hikers pulled into the parking lot to frolic in several inches of wet, slushy snow.
On the west side of town, the storm cut power to about 4,000 homes and businesses served by the Turnagain and Spenard substations, said Phil Steyer, a spokesman for Chugach Electric Association. By noon, all but 150 customers had been restored, Steyer said.
The winds forced an early end to Anchorage's Relay for Life, the 24-hour fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that began Friday evening. About 3:45 a.m., the wind picked up and ripped through team camps, tearing up canopies and sending tents blowing across Cuddy Family Midtown Park, said Joe Debets, senior manager for Relay for Life Alaska.
Debets said in an email that the decision to end the event early was a matter of putting participant safety first.
"Although closing the event before we reached the halfway point will have a huge effect on our fundraising efforts for not only Anchorage, but the entire state," Debets wrote, "it was the right call since even our large commercial tents were destroyed later in the morning after we left."
He said the relay will not be rescheduled, but officials plan to find a way to finish some of the events, including the silent auction, raffle and closing ceremonies, at a later time.
In the Valley, Matanuska Electric Association was grappling with several major outages in its service areas. In the Pittman and Meadow Lakes area, crews were working to restore power to about 1,500 customers, the association said on its Facebook page.
Another 1,000 were without power in the Houston and North Big Lake Area and in a handful of surrounding subdivisions, the association said.
A high wind warning for the Matanuska Valley was in effect until 2 p.m., forecasting south winds gusting between 40 and 60 mph.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By DEVIN KELLY