Windstorm knocks out power for thousands in Matanuska Valley, prompts Tuesday school closures

Update, 7:15 a.m. Tuesday: With winds subsiding overnight, power has been restored to all but a few dozen homes and businesses in the Matanuska Valley, according to Matanuska Electric Association. Blizzard warnings for the area, as well as for Valdez and Thompson Pass, have been cancelled. The National Weather Service measured a 70 mph gust in Palmer and an 89 mph gust in Thompson Pass.

Original story:

PALMER — Winds howling through parts of Mat-Su on Monday knocked out power to thousands, spurring the borough school district to preemptively close schools Tuesday, and prompted the closure of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough central landfill near Palmer.

A blizzard warning in effect for the Matanuska Valley through 6 a.m. Tuesday called for winds gusting as high as 70 mph, leading to reduced visibility from blowing and drifting snow in exposed areas.

By Monday evening, more than 16,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in a “massive widespread outage,” according to Matanuska Electric Association, which said it was working on a fix to restore power. Crews were continuing to work as new outages sprang up throughout the day.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District said Monday evening that all of its schools would be closed Tuesday due to significant power outages and strong winds.

That followed the district’s announcement earlier in the day of the cancellation of after-school activities Monday for schools in three regions, covering Palmer, Wasilla and the dense core area between them. A decision on after-school activities Tuesday would be made by noon that day, the district said.


The borough announced the landfill closure Monday morning “due to high wind conditions.”

By midafternoon, the National Weather Service had recorded 70 mph gusts at airports in both Palmer and Wasilla, according to meteorologist Christian Landry. The weather service hadn’t recorded gusts higher than that as of Monday evening, said meteorologist Carson Jones.

Blowing snow was reducing visibility on roads throughout the area and blocking some.

In Palmer, blowing snow was starting to make some roads impassable in the area of Palmer Airport and the courthouse, according to the Palmer Police Department, which urged drivers to go around drifts and not through them.

In Wasilla, drifts were forming along the Parks Highway near Wasilla Lake among other locations, the Wasilla Police Department said: “The wind has really picked up, and with our fabulous dump of snow last week it is causing large drifts to form.”

Winds were expected to slowly die off through the night, Jones said. Conditions will remain breezy on Tuesday, he said, but nothing like what the area experienced Monday.

The Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center on Monday issued a warning about the increasing risk of natural avalanches due to existing dangerous conditions from recent storms and “now a rapid load from winds.”

The National Weather Service had also issued a special weather statement for Anchorage and the western Kenai Peninsula warning of strong northerly winds developing through the day along Knik Arm and Cook Inlet, with gusts from 25 to 50 mph. Jones said the wind ended up staying out more over Knik Arm. While communities closer to the body of water, like Birchwood, felt the effects of the wind, most of Anchorage proper wasn’t as affected, he said.