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Wind whips Southeast after record rains

Gusts could go as high as 60 mph today

Posted: Thursday, November 24, 2005

After a record-setting week of rain, it was the wind's turn to batter Juneau.

"My windows were rattling, and debris was hitting my house" said Shelley Miller, who went outside Wednesday to find her fence blown down at 3953 Portage Boulevard. A neighbor's boat shelter also blew through a fence and lay strewn across his yard.

Winds late Tuesday and early Wednesday gusted into the 50 mph range in Juneau, and a ferry crew in Pelican clocked one gust at 135 mph. The storm led state officials to cancel one ferry run from Juneau to Sitka on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the National Weather Service was looking for more rain and wind to hit Juneau today.

Teresa Young said that when she and her husband, Tod, heard a tree hit the roof of their house Tuesday night at 8521 Mendenhall Loop Road they ran outside with flashlights in the pitch black and rain.

"It could have been a lot worse," she said after seeing no apparent damage in the morning.

With another falling tree waking the family between 3 and 4 a.m., it was a restless night, Young said.

"They're very fortunate," said Bob Chernikoff of Wallace Tree Service, heading a crew clearing a cluster of trees from the Young house. He said he hadn't seen much severe damage from trees blowing down, but his company did respond to a branch through a window in a kitchen-dining room on Glacierwood Drive.

Rain was expected to return late Wednesday and continue overnight, said Kimberly Vaughan, a hydrometeorological technician for the National Weather Service in Juneau. She also said winds were expected to be stronger and continue throughout the day.

While wind gusts were recorded as high as 51 mph downtown and 54 mph at Juneau International Airport overnight Tuesday, today winds could gust at 60 mph, with sustained winds at 30 mph.

The storm was expected to leave 1.75 inches of rain through today, she said. There was a chance that Wednesday's rain would break the record for the highest official seven-day total recorded in Juneau - a record that was set just Tuesday at 10.42 inches.

Until the last week, Juneau had never recorded more than 10 inches of rain in a seven-day period, according to National Weather Service records.

Juneau Street Superintendent Mike Scott said the saturation of water caused a mudslide late Tuesday afternoon that resulted in the city's only road closure from the series of storms.

Glacier Highway between Juneau-Douglas High School and Egan Drive was expected to reopen Friday afternoon, said Mary Siroky, an Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities spokeswoman.

Scott said the stream of water, mud and debris rolled off the mountain in a common chute for mudslides and avalanches. Culverts run beneath the cul-de-sac at the end of Wickersham Avenue, above Glacier Highway, he explained. There was too much to handle, and the mudslide cut between houses in the 1900 block of Glacier Highway before running down the street.

Siroky said state crews would monitor the area today, but most would get the Thanksgiving holiday off.

"They've been working 14-hour days," she said.

There is local access for people who live in the Glacier Highway area, but the road is closed as a thoroughfare, Siroky said.

The Associated Press reported that a landslide in Sitka destroyed a building and cut power to half of the city late Tuesday after more than 3 inches of rain fell during the day.

The Alaska Marine Highway System's Sitka-bound fast ferry Fairweather on Wednesday hit 10-foot waves south of Admiralty Island, Siroky said. It turned back after hearing from the LeConte that seas to the south were only getting worse.

The LeConte had to leave Pelican in a hurry, Siroky said, after the captain reported measuring a 135 mph gust. It wasn't safe to remain close to the dock, and the ferry left before it finished loading, leaving a crew member behind.

Vaughan said colder weather, with snow and "less water," was expected this weekend.

The National Weather Service on Wednesday could not confirm any Southeast Alaska gusts upward of 70 mph.

Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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