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Windstorm slams Southcentral Alaska with gusts over 80 mph

A powerful windstorm blasted across Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska on Tuesday, leaving thousands of dwellings without power, blowing over trees and tearing the roof from at least one Hillside home.

The high-wind warning for Anchorage, Eagle River, Indian and Eklutna ended at 7 p.m. Tuesday, but the National Weather Service said residents could still expect strong winds overnight and Wednesday.

By 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Chugach Electric alone was reporting significant outages, affecting more than 1,600 customers in neighborhoods throughout Anchorage.

As of 5 am, we have just over 1800 members without power. Crews worked through the night, and we are rotating some in...

Posted by Chugach Electric on Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Tuesday's wind tore shingles off roofs and knocked out power for thousands of customers in Anchorage and the Chugiak-Eagle River area. Traffic lights were dark in pockets of East Anchorage. Trees were reported down around the city, and downed power lines appeared to spark at least one fire off Elmore Road on the Lower Hillside.

Gusts exceeded 80 mph on Anchorage's Upper Hillside, and the National Weather Service reported a sustained wind of 60 mph on top of Mount Baldy above Eagle River.

Crews worked to remove debris from outside a home on Sidorof Lane, in Anchorage's Hillside area on Tuesday.

Neighbor Carey Cossaboom said that around 8:30 or 9 a.m. he heard something hitting his house, and looked out the window to see debris flying past. At first, Cossaboom thought the debris was from his home, but then looked over toward his neighbor.

"I saw her roof was gone," Cossaboom said.

Cossaboom said he witnessed a "circular wind event" Tuesday morning.

"When I saw the debris fly past my house, it was just swirling around like, unbelievable," Cossaboom said.

Strong gusts were reported early Tuesday and continued into the afternoon. Around 3 p.m. an Upper DeArmoun Road observation showed gusts up to 84 mph and similar gusts were reported at Glen Alps. The Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport saw gusts up to 55 mph just before 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Chugach Electric Association's outage map showed upwards of 7,600 customers without power.

Municipal Light & Power said around 5:30 p.m. that about 2,500 customers were without power, including near Merrill Field, parts of Airport Heights near DeBarr Road and Midtown in the Lake Otis and Tudor Road area.

A total of 12,000 people in areas served by the Matanuska Electric Association were without power as of about 5:30 p.m., the company said on Twitter.

"The majority of those folks are in the Peters Creek, Eklutna, Chugiak, Birchwood and Eagle River areas due what believe is a wind/tree-related issue impacting a transmission line," MEA wrote on Twitter. "Crews are currently patrolling lines to locate the cause."

Wind complicated the morning commute Tuesday.

Reports put peak gusts at the Glenn Highway weigh station south of Eagle River at 40 to 45 mph, Baines said. "We just had one guy come in here saying it was hard to stay in your lane."

The setup behind the storm was classic, forecasters say, though the conditions usually arise in the fall and not the spring.

A storm out in the Bering Sea is combining with a strong surface front approaching from the west, Baines said. That causes the pressure gradient — the difference between high- and low-pressure zones — to build over Southcentral Alaska.

Wind blows from higher to lower pressure, he said. And terrain like mountain gaps or Turnagain Arm serve as wind-intensifying funnels.

Wednesday is forecast to have scattered showers and some gusting winds, according to the National Weather Service.

So far, the windstorm has had no impact on operations at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Trudy Wassel.

"They are watching it closely," she said.

Anchorage Daily News reader Kevin Lewellyn submitted this video of a tree that caught fire on Elmore Road at 88th Avenue around 5 p.m.

Another reader, Russell Porsley, shot this video of the wind tearing across the road as he left work in Eagle River around 4:30 p.m.

Andrea Corbin submitted this video of her neighbor's house on Patterson Street in East Anchorage losing shingles in the wind.

And here's some more shingle action in Baxter Bog, documented by Danielle Chilson. What does the windstorm look like in your neighborhood? Share your photos and videos with us at newstips@adn.com.

Photojournalist Marc Lester and reporter Matt Tunseth of the Alaska Star contributed reporting. 

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