Anchorage saw gusts up to nearly 100 mph in ‘historic’ windstorm

The hurricane-force winds that hammered parts of Anchorage earlier this week toppled trees and caused widespread damage, leaving thousands without power for hours.

A new storm is expected to bring more snow to the city starting early Saturday, according to a winter weather advisory issued Friday afternoon.

The storm that began Wednesday night and ended Thursday was remarkable, especially for West Anchorage, because the warm winds that descended into town from the mountains continued to stay strong as they traveled through the city, said National Weather Service climate scientist Brian Brettschneider.

Generally, southeast winds diminish significantly by the time they reach the western part of the city, he said.

The National Weather Service recorded a peak gust of 94 mph at Arctic Valley during the storm, with gusts up to 82 mph recorded in South Anchorage and 59 mph at Merrill Field. The agency registered a 69 mph gust at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport early Thursday morning.

The gusts recorded at the airport are the third highest on record for that location, beat only by northern wind gusts over 70 mph recorded during 1989 and 2003, according to Brettschneider.

“The most remarkable aspect about this one isn’t so much the wind speed, because again, on the east side there’s been winds this strong before, I think in Midtown this probably happens every couple of years, but for the west side, it was really a historic event,” he said.


This week’s storm came with enough force that it snapped powerlines and a plane was reported overturned at Merrill Field near downtown Anchorage, according to weather service meteorologist Pam Szatanek.

The extensive damage to utilities required time-consuming repairs to electrical equipment in numerous parts of town, said Chugach Electric Association spokeswoman Julie Hasquet. At the outage’s peak, roughly 5,000 members were without power and more than 1,400 remained without electricity into midafternoon Thursday.

Repair crews prioritized major safety hazards and responded Wednesday night with police and emergency responders to fires on electrical poles, traffic lights without power, and downed wires that had fallen across roadways, Hasquet said. Only a few members remained without power by Friday morning.

Matanuska Electric Association also experienced outages during the storm with a peak of roughly 2,880 members without electricity. Wind speeds on the Glenn Highway near the Knik River Bridge reached 70 mph and the Palmer Municipal Airport saw peak gusts of 56 mph.

The strong winds came as rising temperatures earlier this week left many roads and sidewalks coated in ice. Temperatures on Thursday reached into the 40s.

Cold weather is expected to return to Southcentral Alaska in the coming days as cooler air filters into the region from the Interior.

More snow was expected Saturday, with 6 to 10 inches forecast for Anchorage and Eagle River. The heaviest snow was expected between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., with the highest accumulations on the Hillside and at higher elevations, according to the weather service.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at