Strong wind gust breaks record at Juneau airport

Nearly 7,700 lose power Sunday after trees blew into lines

Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A gust of wind broke records at Juneau International Airport Sunday night, and windy weather elsewhere caused harbor damage and a power outage in the Mendenhall Valley.

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The 66 mph gust of wind recorded at 8:16 p.m. Sunday at the airport station broke a former record of 61 mph, which was recorded twice, in October 2007 and November 2001, according to the National Weather Service.

Other high wind gusts around the area Sunday were 154 mph on Sheep Mountain, 90 mph at the top of Eaglecrest Ski Area, 75 mph at the Federal Building downtown and 70 mph at Mayflower Island near Douglas.

A low-pressure system moved over the Panhandle on Sunday night causing the severe weather, said forecaster Rick Fritsch with the National Weather Service.

Forecasters expected the system to pass directly over Juneau, which would have brought more snow and less wind, but it hit land north of Sitka and traveled over Hoonah, then over the Lynn Canal towards Haines. The track created high winds for Juneau since the city was not directly in the center of the storm, Fritsch said.

Another low-pressure system is expected to begin affecting Juneau's weather today, but will not bring high wind. Snow will change to rain today as temperatures rise through the afternoon, Fritsch said.

Sunday's high winds blew tree branches into power lines that caused an outage for 7,695 customers, said Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. spokeswoman Gail Wood. The power went out for residents from Lemon Creek north at about 9:30 p.m. and was restored about an hour later.

Winds caused damage to docks at Aurora Harbor near downtown as finger piers failed and broke away, said Harbor Master Lou McCall. There were no injuries or damage to vessels reported. Repairs would involve shoring up the main float and reattaching the fingers, McCall said.

Staff at the Auke Bay harbor were still waiting to hear from the owner of a gillnet boat that either dragged or lost its anchor in the shallows of Fisherman's Bend within the bay. The 30- to 32-foot boat was beached Monday near the ferry terminal, said harbor officer Greg Craig, who reported only minor damage at the harbor due to the weather. He said a few cleats broke and tarps were lost.

"We made out pretty good, considering the wind," Craig said.

Police responded to calls related to the weather Sunday, including several from residents who witnessed electricity arcing between power lines in the 5000 block of Douglas Highway, and a truck canopy blowing across the Juneau-Douglas bridge. Extra patrol was also requested at several area businesses due to security alarms being set off by the strong wind, Sgt. David Campbell said.

High winds were recorded in other Southeast Alaska communities Sunday, including a gust of 77 mph in Craig and 72 mph in Hydaburg, according to the National Weather Service.

• Contact Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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