Update, 6:50 a.m. Monday: The National Weather Service has 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.
Houston Middle School in Mat-Su also announced a shift to remote learning due to “severe water damage” from burst pipes.
Check back for updates. Sunday’s original story is below.
Strong winds are expected to sweep through the Matanuska Valley starting Monday morning into Tuesday, creating blizzard conditions, as forecasters urged drivers to use caution on roadways where visibility will be reduced.
Winds are forecast to increase from Sunday into Monday morning, reaching about 30 to 40 mph by the time of the morning commute, National Weather Service meteorologist Shaun Baines said. Palmer, Wasilla, Sutton and Chickaloon are some of the communities that will be affected the most.
Then peak gusts as high as 55 to 70 mph will hit the area from Monday afternoon into the evening, he said, before winds calm down Monday night into Tuesday morning.
A blizzard warning for the Matanuska Valley in effect from 9 a.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday described hazardous conditions possibly affecting the morning and evening commutes Monday, along with the potential for power outages, damage and difficult travel for high-profile vehicles caused by heavy winds.
The forecast shows no new snowfall, but strong winds will most likely blow around the existing snow on the ground, reducing visibility to as little as a quarter of a mile, according to the blizzard warning.
The intensity of the blizzard conditions will depend on how solid the snowpack is at a given location, Baines said.
“The snow in the Matanuska Valley is generally looser, so it should be more liable to blowing around,” he said.
Forecasters don’t expect conditions to be as challenging as what some parts of Southcentral Alaska experienced during the most recent snowstorms.
“This will not be as bad,” Baines said. “This will be more localized and sort of like a ground blizzard. If you can picture, you know, the snow on the roads and blowing across the roads and drifting, but not necessarily creating huge whiteout visibility conditions up in the air.”
In Anchorage, winds are forecast to be slightly weaker, and the snow is more solid than it is in the Valley, he said.
The strongest winds in Anchorage — up to 40 or 50 mph — will follow a corridor from the Valley south along the Knik Arm, according to Baines. Areas seeing the most impact from the wind include the Glenn Highway from the Birchwood and Chugiak area to downtown Anchorage, and then the western part of the city, including Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and the Turnagain neighborhood.
“But again, with a more solid snowpack, we don’t actually think that will cause any big issues with blowing snow,” Baines said. “It’ll just be windy out.”
Farther south, gusts of similar strength are expected from Nikiski to Anchor Point, but looser snow in that area means there’s a greater chance for drifting and blowing snow, according to a special weather statement issued for Anchorage and the western Kenai Peninsula. “Despite warming temperatures, wind chills will range between -10F and 5F,” the statement said.