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Winds knock over 11,000-pound shipping containers in Juneau

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wind and frigid temperatures wreaked havoc on the Alaska Marine Highway System this weekend and toppled more than two dozen shipping containers at Alaska Marine Lines near downtown.

The wind and cold didn't break any weather records, but they combined to lower the wind-chill factor to an uncomfortable 15 below, according to the National Weather Service.

Sea spray and extreme icing caused trouble for marine highway crews and travelers on Sunday, according to the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The crew on the state ferry LeConte measured winds of 70 knots and a peak gust of 120 knots while en route from Juneau to Angoon on Sunday, causing icing that disabled the ship's radar and GPS systems, said Capt. Dave Jancauskas, marine highway system senior port captain in Ketchikan.

"(The ice) also encased the engine room air intake vents," Jancauskas said.

Passengers were given free food and accommodations while the LeConte stayed in Hoonah on Sunday night so the crew could break ice off the ship, its life boats and fast-rescue vessel.

The LeConte departed Hoonah at about noon Monday, a day behind schedule, and was headed for Juneau.

High winds and freezing spray also created hazardous icing conditions for the 235-foot fast ferry, Chenega, that prevented it from sailing Saturday and Sunday, the transportation department said. Passengers were rebooked.

Wind also was blamed for damage at Alaska Marine Lines off Thane Road, where 15 53-foot-long dry containers and 12 40-foot refrigerated containers toppled over early Sunday.

No one was injured.

The empty shipping containers weigh 11,000 pounds each and were tied in pairs, said port manager Eric Badger, who surveyed the damage Sunday morning.

"I couldn't even fathom opening my (car) door since it might have gone flying down the channel in the wind," he said.

The company will use a crane to load the damaged containers on a barge to Seattle, where they would be inspected. A damage cost estimate was not available Monday.

The wind combined with low temperatures caused by a strong arctic air mass to make it feel colder in Juneau over the past few days, said forecaster Jim Truitt with the National Weather Service.

A wind chill factor of 15 below was recorded at the Federal Building downtown early Sunday morning, and the high temperature at Juneau International Airport on Monday was only 8 degrees.

Truitt said temperatures would be in the teens today and Wednesday and in the low 20s Thursday.

"We'll have a very gradual warming trend, but it's slow," he said.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or by e-mail at kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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