Jesse Ferrell

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130 MPH: Extreme Alaska Wind Storm Cuts Off Anchorage

September 5, 2012; 11:06 AM ET

UPDATE: Here is an excellent surface / satellite map showing the storm yesterday from CIMSS:

Last night, the National Weather Service in Anchorage, Alaska, issued a dire warning about high winds with an incoming storm: "The Anchorage National Weather Forecast office is predicting tonight's storm to produce strong and potentially damaging wind gusts for a large area: UPPER ANCHORAGE HILLSIDE-TURNAGAIN ARM: 75-100 miles per hour." This morning they followed up with: "The internet, phone, and power outages affecting most on Anchorage continue to affect the NWS as well. Our local webpages remain unavailable this morning." The last forecast map that they issued is shown below:

Pfaff Mine reported wind gusts to 81 mph while Harding Ice Field reported 83-mph gusts, but the highest I found was an Alaska DOT station on the Seward Highway which measured 88 mph. Higher wind gusts may have been observed, but the data is not available due to the internet outages. On Facebook, a representative from the NWS said "KTUU reported gusts of 131mph (unofficial) but the [NWS] Forecast Office is still trying to get lines up and data compiled."

Getting information about power outages there is also challenging because the Internet lines are down. Ironically, Anchorage Municipal Light & Power's website was not responding as of this writing. The Anchorage Daily News listed outages as "scattered" last night but has a slideshow of tree damage from yesterday (it is still dark there as I am writing this. KTUU says that schools have closed for the day and that power companies aren't sure how many customers have lost power, but estimates are around 25,000 (about 10% of the population of Anchorage, according to WikiPedia).

It's plenty cold too -- says that station KAKE has tied their record low of 41 degrees. WeatherEyes says snow will be possible in higher terrain. The pressure from the storm was estimated at 974 mb yesterday by the GFS model, a Category 2 Hurricane equivalent pressure on the old SS Scale. Joe Lundberg says that these types of strong storms are not unusual in Alaska, but this one has come a bit early for the season, while the tree leaves are still attached (fall foliage is only appearing in Central Alaska this week), which has made the tree damage worse.

Below you can see some of the reaction overnight on social media (where cell towers were still up, anyway):

High Winds Hit Alaska

Winds as high as 130 mph hit Alaska, knocking out power and knocking down trees. Read more at http://weathermatrix.accuweather/com.

Storified by Jesse Ferrell · Wed, Sep 05 2012 08:11:23

Those trees are supposed to be straight 70mph winds #crazy #weather #alaska Gutierrez
Per KTUU: Winds gusted at Glen Alps to 131 mph last night. Alaska State employees do not need to report to work. Anch Schools closed.celticdiva (Linda)
MT @DaveSnider Peak wind gusts for #Anchorage #Alaska so far... More to come over next several hours. #akwx #akstorm Alaska Region
Going in to work late but damn Alaska you had 100 mile an hour winds last night? It's cold enough shawtyJose Mejia Jr
On the Late Edition: winds knock out power in hillcrest neighborhood. Hear from family who got stuck in an elevator. Lamb
BTW, #Anchorage, we're at 78 MPH winds that may top 100MPH tonight. They call it a hurricane other places. In #Alaska it's a storm.Shannyn Moore
On the drive home. This tree got it's ass kicked by these 100 MPH winds! Blocking the street! Sison

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.