More rain, high winds expected to hit Juneau

Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2001

Lash down the outdoor planters and anchor the poodle. A second North Pacific storm will advance north to Juneau today, bringing in much the same weather as Wednesday's tumult.

The National Weather Service predicted gusts to 60 miles per hour, and Wednesday bested that prediction, with the strongest wind measured at 89 mph at the Juneau Ranger Station near Valley Lumber, said weather service specialist Richard Blizzard. Whitecaps reared their foamy heads on Gastineau Channel.

Above sea level, things got more serious; a gust of 131 mph hit Sheep Mountain at its 3,500-foot elevation around 4 a.m. Wednesday. Sheep Mountain is a ridge behind and overlooking Mount Roberts.

Howling around roofs Wednesday morning, the storm brought 1.6 inches of rain at the Juneau Airport, Blizzard said.

Traffic cones were flung into ditches, nomadic trash cans became instruments of percussion as well as dodge-ems for motorists, and even green limbs were torn from trees. Part of the time, it was darker than the inside of a humpback's stomach.

That storm is now falling apart over the interior of Alaska, slowly drifting toward the Canada border, Blizzard said.

Trees toppled during the storm, said Peter Bibb, vice president of consumer affairs for AEL&P, "but there was only one that fell on power lines." That tree fell in Indian Cove and deprived just one family of power, Bibb said.

"We went through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's with no problems this year; that's something to cheer about. No football game interruptions," Bibb said. Most people, "especially out the road, are prepared for power outs," he said. But he did recommend residents check their flashlight batteries.

A second storm is approaching, "taking an almost identical path as far as Juneau is concerned," Blizzard said. "It's not quite as strong as the one we just got through with, but we will start seeing an increase in winds this afternoon, and will be really into it this evening with gusts of 20 to 40 miles per hour downtown."

The weather service expects the second storm to deposit between an inch and an inch and a half of precipitation in the 36 hours ending Friday evening.

During the lull between storms, Alaska State Troopers resumed their search at 10 a.m. today for the remains of a single-engine aircraft carrying Steve Zeckser and Edgar Burch. The plane disappeared Dec. 27 on a flight to Young Bay off Admiralty Island. Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said a 47-foot boat and an underwater camera would carry on the recovery effort.

A third storm is on its way, Blizzard said, but it will travel much further west and affect Anchorage more than it does Juneau. Somewhat colder weather from the storm "should get us back more into a typical pattern of winter," he said.

"Maybe by next week we can think about scraping the rust off the snow shovel," Blizzard said.

Paul Swanson, manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, hopes the forecast proves accurate. "Yesterday's warm wind melted the snow back on the lower mountain," Swanson said. "I haven't been up to the top yet. But we could certainly use snow."

Alfred Cook, sole proprietor of Cook Snow Removal & Sanding, is occupying his days with general contracting.

"You can't rely on snow as a sole source of income or you would be starving to death," Cook said.

A veteran of more than 20 Juneau winters, Cook called this winter "a strange one. I've never seen a November and December with no workable snow."

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneau empire.com



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