Storm barrels through parts of Alaska

Wind gusts cut power to thousands of homes; little serious damage

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2005

ANCHORAGE - A huge storm swamped boats and tore up docks in Southwest Alaska early Tuesday before ripping through Southcentral with wind gusts that left thousands of dwellings without power in Anchorage, Eagle River and the Mat-Su area.

By evening, electricity was back up in most places, and little serious damage was reported. No one was reported hurt.

A satellite image showed the storm spanning more than 1,000 miles from north to south. It appeared to cover the entire state, with the eye near Bethel.

"It's huge. It's just a classical storm," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Hopkins. "It's gorgeous, from a weather person's point of view."

Such storms hit Alaska in fall and winter but rarely hit with such force in summer, according to the weather service.

"We don't usually see this sort of strong storm in August," Hopkins said. "We're definitely in the fall (weather) pattern now."

Strong southerly winds generated by the storm pushed large amounts of water ashore in several Southwest Alaska communities.

At Clarks Point, south of Dillingham, heavy equipment was swamped and the airstrip was submerged. A family had to be evacuated when waves hit the old clinic and community center, threatening to collapse the building, said village tribal administrator Sharon Clark.

"The whole lower village flooded," Clark said.

In Dillingham, at least three fishing boats in the harbor ended up on the beach, while a nearby car was shoved into the harbor by waves rolling through a parking lot, according to police. Several skiffs sank.

A seawall in Togiak held the storm away from houses but lost all its backfill rock and will have to be repaired. A grassy slope at Egegik was eroded into a cliff, with houses and water and sewer mains now perilously close to the edge.

Gusts of more than 50 mph and 20-foot seas continued Tuesday afternoon as local residents braced for the next high tide. By evening, however, the winds had dropped.

Tuesday morning's high tide, at 20.7 feet in Dillingham, was one of the highest of the month. Waves from the southwest pushed water at least three feet beyond the normal high-tide range.

Strong winds hit Anchorage, ripping down trees and power lines, but lost force as heavy rains continued moving to the northeast.

By Wednesday the storm hovered above the North Slope and was continuing to weaken, said David Vonderheide, a weather service spokesman in Anchorage.

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