Just home from a crazy night at work...Hearing of gusts up to 100mph at the tower. All flights after 8pm diverted to FAI or ENA...Amazing stories from the pax of the last flight in tonight. Lots of debris flying from the roof, including satalite dishes...Windows blowing out.....Crazy times here in ANC...Heres the story...
Gale-force winds rip through Anchorage, close airport
Steve MacDonald and Meghan Waller
Anchorage, Alaska, March 12 - High winds toppled trees, knocked out power, ripped off roofs, broke windows and generally caused havoc in Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley on Wednesday evening, as winds gusted well over 50 mph.
Stevens Anchorage International Airport closed Wednesday evening, and all incoming flights are being diverted to Fairbanks. Passengers are being turned away from the terminals until further notice.
At least one small plane was reported overturned, and owners are warned to be sure their aircraft are tied down.
A wildfire closed the Glenn Highway near the state fairgrounds in Palmer, and traffic was being rerouted.
Police were warning people to stay out of downtown Anchorage because of the danger of flying glass and other debris. It appeared most people were taking their advice because city streets Wednesday night looked like a ghost town. The few people who were out were running for cover.
"We've lost a couple of large plate glass windows from some of the businesses down here," said APD Lt. Caroline Stevens, sitting in her patrol car about 9 p.m. "There's so much debris flying around that we actually lost a patrol car, it's out of service right now because it had a windshield broken out. So it is dangerous to be out here right now."
It also could be dangerous to be inside. The fourth floor of Duke's Eighth Avenue Hotel was evacuated after the roof was torn off and the front glass door blown out and side windows smashed by the force of the wind.
"I've seen the wind before and a lot of alarm calls, but not to this extent, this much damage at one time," said Lt. Stevens. "Stay well-covered, shelter your faces, your eyes because we do have so much debris blowing around. Probably the damage that you'll see is abrasions to the eyes. There's glass in the air, there's volcanic ash in the air that's left over from last year. There's a tremendous amount of dirt because it's so dry right now."
Police said power lines were arcing throughout the Anchorage Bowl. They warn people that if power lines fall on your car, do not attempt to get out of the car.
Among other problems caused by the winds were health alerts and fire warnings.
The strong winds forced the Department of Environmental Conservation to issue an air quality advisory today for Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley and the Kenai Peninsula.
An emergency room doctor at Alaska Regional Hospital said there was an increase Wednesday afternoon in cases of people suffering from respiratory ailments.
"We're also looking at volcanic ash that's left over from a few years ago. It's stirring around," said Dr. Don Hudson. "Some of the road dust is certainly out and about, and we're seeing a lot of that. And, of course, obviously all the virus and bacterial particles that are normally out and about this time of year are also being thrown into the mix."
Wednesday evening, the temperature was 6 degrees but the wind chill made it feel like 20 below.
The National Weather Service also declared a red flag fire warning Wednesday. The high winds, coupled with low humidity and dry conditions, have created a wildfire danger. The Anchorage Fire Department has banned all outdoor fires.
Several wildfires broke out Wednesday on the Kenai Peninsula, the worst of them a 30-acre blaze that scorched an area about 10 miles north of Anchor Point. Officials said high winds were helping spread those blazes, and the dry grass and beetle-killed spruce trees were providing lots of fuel.
Some people have been evacuated from subdivisions in the fire's path. Crews from Homer, Ninilchik and Anchor Point were battling the main blaze, which burned out of control several hours Wednesday afternoon, but by evening seemed to have been stopped at a road.
Gusts are expected to tape off Thursday to 25 to 30 mph, but no real relief from the winds is predicted until Friday night