Second storm in two weeks batters area

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 20:00
Gusty winds drop trees, knock out power to 3,000 homes
High winds from a large winter storm knocked over several trees in the Chugiak-Eagle River area, including this one, which crashed into the Wilmot family’s home on Dinaaka Drive in Eagle River on Sunday, Dec. 11.

Too bad it’s not fishing season.

For the second week in a row, a huge Chinook arrived in the area, bringing high winds, heavy snow, power outages and icy roads to the area.

The storm’s full force hit on Sunday, Dec. 11, with temperatures soaring into the 40s as the wind began to pick up over the course of the afternoon. First rain, then wet, heavy snow blanketed Chugiak-Eagle River as winds began gusting to as much as 70 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

The wind caused trees to crash to the ground, into homes and across power lines, causing as many as 3,000 Matanuska Electric Association subscribers to lose power, according to MEA director of operations Tony Zellers.

“The trees are just horrible,” Zellers said.

Hardest hit was Birchwood, which Zellers said got slammed by a particularly forceful gust of wind at about 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Birchwood Community Council president Bobbi Wells said the lights went off early Saturday morning at her house. According to MEA, as many as 400 subscribers in Birchwood didn’t have their lights back on until Monday night.

Eagle River’s Russ Wilmot was relaxing at home watching the Giants-Cowboys game Sunday afternoon when he heard a tremendous crash.

“It made quite a racket,” Wilmot recalled.

The resident of Dinaaka Drive near the edge of Eagle River Valley looked out his upstairs window to see the branches of a 60-foot spruce that had fallen on his home.

“I’m just thankful it didn’t take out my windows,” Wilmot said.

The tree was the fourth — and final — spruce Wilmot has lost from heavy winter winds over the past 27 years.

“Every time we get these Chinook winds it seems I lose another tree,” he said.

The Anchorage School District cancelled school on Monday. The closure came 10 days after the ASD had to call off after-school activities in the district due to a big Chinook that brought wind gusts of more than 100 mph to higher elevations around the Anchorage Bowl.

While that storm was mostly wind, this latest version at least left some white stuff behind, with as much as 18 inches accumulating at the end of Hiland Road and 5-6 inches closer to town.

On Monday, area residents began the task of digging out. Using just a shovel to clear his driveway, Toakoana Drive’s Sean Braendel said the snow dumped by the storm was extremely heavy.

“I think it’s mostly water,” he said.

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