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Aleutians communities begin damage repair in wake of dramatic North Pacific storm

  • Author:
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 16, 2015

A storm that blasted Alaska's Aleutian Islands over the weekend has passed, leaving locals a chance to assess the damage before more winter weather arrives later this week.

The storm, roughly on par with the remnants of Typhoon Nuri that entered the Bering Sea in November 2014, brought hurricane-force winds to a wide swath of the Aleutians as well as high seas to the Pribilof Islands and much of Western Alaska.

Dan Peterson, a forecaster at the National Weather Service's Anchorage office, said the storm that caused the damage was dissipating in the Bering Strait and likely to collapse completely on Thursday.

In Adak, about 350 miles west of Unalaska, City Manager Layton Lockett said in a statement Tuesday that the community's critical infrastructure had weathered the storm with only brief outages, despite widespread damage elsewhere from a storm he equated with a Category 3 hurricane.

"The city recorded wind gusts over 100 mph for a period of 9 hours during the night of December 12-13," Lockett wrote. "Peak wind gusts reached 122 mph for a period of two hours during that time."

Lockett said the Adak City Council was planning to evaluate a potential disaster declaration during its Wednesday meeting as supplies and labor to repair buildings remained "in short supply."

"Substantial private property damage occurred within the city limits," Lockett wrote. "Housing units primarily lost protective siding, insulation and solariums.

"Given storms are forecasted to impact Adak this weekend, residents are busy securing personal property from future damage. Commercial damage was sustained to the fish processing plant, warehouse facilities and airport facilities."

In the nearby city of Atka, Village Public Safety Officer William Dushkin said several buildings and a playground were damaged during the storm.

"A couple of outdoor Arctic entryways got torn off and blown in the wind on a couple of older buildings," Dushkin said. "We had a jungle-gym-style kiddie park, with a couple plastic slides and a swingset -- that thing got toppled over and knocked over in the wind."

Dushkin's wife, Crystal Dushkin, posted a photo of the playground wreckage to her Facebook page.

"It was already knocked over outside," she told Alaska Dispatch News. "I saw it in the window because the playground was across the road from our house."

One local home had a bedroom window blown in by the wind.

"There's quite a bit of damage in the village," Crystal Dushkin said. "There was a wall blown out from the tribal office building -- it was a porch wall -- and a back porch that was completely blown off the old community building."

"One person's shed out behind someone's house, it was blown down completely," she said. "Another house, one of the windows was blown in."

"We have a satellite dish specifically for (the Alaska Rural Communications Service), and that dish was blown off of its position," Crystal Dushkin said. "My husband and some other men went to reposition and fix it, but it's not getting any kind of signal at all -- he's waiting now for a part for the satellite dish."

The local GCI satellite dish, which provides the community with Internet service, also sustained damage that William Dushkin tried to fix.

"He put the part back in place, but the clamp for it is broken so it won't hold it anymore," Crystal Dushkin said. "It's supposed to blow again this week, and if it blows off that piece again we won't have Internet anymore."

Repairs are proceeding in the village as well.

"They're working on the tribal building," Crystal Dushkin said. "The window is just boarded up right now."

Although other damage was reported in Atka, including a skiff flipped by the wind, no injuries were reported.

"Everyone's OK," William Dushkin said.

The Weather Service is already tracking another storm moving east, Peterson said.

"It's out in the Bering Sea and strengthening," Peterson said.

The new storm, roughly 330 nautical miles southeast of Sand Point as of about 4 a.m. Wednesday, is expected to pass about 225 nautical miles southeast of Sitkinak Island in the Gulf of Alaska by Wednesday evening. Forecasters expect it to continue eastward, arriving 325 nautical miles southwest of Sitka by Thursday night.

A high-wind watch for the central Aleutians, covering both Atka and Adak, will be in effect from late Thursday until late Friday.

"Southwesterly winds will increase Thursday night with 75 mph gusts developing after midnight," forecasters wrote. "Sustained winds and gusts will continue to strengthen Friday before gradually diminishing through Friday night."

Peterson said the steady series of storms isn't unusual for the Bering Sea given the season.

"This is the way they always track during the wintertime," Peterson said. "They just keep coming in, one after another after another."

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