Heavy wind, record rain hit Juneau

Some gusts in mountains around the city exceed 100 mph

Posted: Friday, December 17, 2004

Cal Richert said it was a rough flight into Juneau on Thursday. Once in town, he had to clean up some of the mess.

"It's surprising more trees don't get blown down as windy as it gets here sometimes," said the owner of Last Frontier Forestry and Tree Service, after flying home from Skagway. He took care of a couple of downed trees and knew of a couple more.

Some of Thursday's gusts in the mountains around Juneau exceeded 100 mph.

By 3 p.m., the airport already had set a record for precipitation for the day, with 1.24 inches of rain. The old record for Dec. 16 was .92 inches in 1990. The 9 a.m. temperature of 46 tied the record high temperature for the date, set in 1954. But the temperature dipped slightly and never managed to break the record, said Kimberly Vaughan, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service in Juneau.

Around Juneau, people were talking about the wind. Vaughan said the worst of it hit between 8 and 10 a.m., with gusts as high as 72 mph at the Federal Building, 60 mph at the Mount Roberts Tramway and 54 mph at The Rock Dump.

Higher up, a 147-mph gust was measured at Sheep Mountain between 10 and 11 a.m. The Eaglecrest Ski Area recorded a gust of 104 mph at about 9 a.m., she said.

The winds were from the south and southwest, unlike the biting Taku wind that comes in from the northeast, Vaughan said. Thursday's wind came from a surge of low pressure moving into Southeast Alaska.

Gusts peaked at 77 mph in Sitka and 75 mph in Hydaburg. On the water, Eldred Rock, at the northwest corner of the borough of Juneau, recorded a 67-mph gust.

Sam Sperry, director of corporate communications for Alaska Airlines, said five flights had to be canceled during the day.

Richert said one of two trees uprooted in the Lena Loop area punched a hole in the roof of a house. Other downed trees were reported in the north Douglas area and on Glacier Highway in the Twin Lakes area.

Gayle Wood, office manager for Alaska Electric Light & Power, said there were several small outages. The trickiest was in the Otter Way area, about 14 miles from downtown Juneau. Crews had to wait for the winds to die down late in the afternoon to take care of a tree tangled in the lines.

A small outage also affected customers was in the Evergreen Cemetery area.

Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter said the wind and rain made driving dangerous, but he hadn't seen any reports of serious damage.

"No vehicles have been blown over," he said. "We just have to hunker down until it passes."

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

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