Mat-Su Borough declares disaster after 48 hours of strong winds whip through valley

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The wind that has pinned the Mat-Su Borough down for the past three days has resulted in extensive damage to homes, businesses, roads, power, and planes. The borough has declared an emergency disaster.

Mike Brown, borough manager, announced the the disaster declaration at a press conference midday and requested the governor declare a disaster emergency and release resources to respond.

Schools are closed and the borough has advised residents to shelter in place for the duration of the storm. Brown described broken pipes and sustained loss of power to hones across the borough.

Two shelters are open — in Wasilla at the Menard Sports Complex and in Palmer at the MatSu Senior Services Center. Both are staffed by the Red Cross.

Stephan Hinman photo

Dr. Randy Traini, superintendent of the MatSu Borough School District said that while all facilities are in relatively good shape with regard to water, heat, and structure, getting students safely to the schools is an issue. The parking lots are not safe and students can’t be left to wait at bus stops. He will make an announcement on Tuesday as to whether school will be in session on Wednesday.

Trooper asked the public to travel only if necessary across the Mat-Su Valley, making a special warning about high-profile vehicles and trailers. “Please only travel if absolutely necessary,” Troopers wrote. DOT said it is working to remove drifting snow across state highways and trees from roads and are bringing in extra electricians to assist on signals, but that they can’t use bucket trucks until wind speed lowers.

The National Weather Service described the wind event as a Bora, when cold temperatures in arctic areas roar down the valleys toward warmer temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska. This cold front came down from the Yukon and has brought wind chills to -35. Gusts have been clocked at 88 mph at the Palmer Airport.

Minor injuries have been reported, Brown said, including injuries from shattered glass at a restaurant.

This is the fourth longest Bora wind event in Palmer-Wasilla, at 48 hours, comparable to 1979, when sustained winds continued for 51 hours and gusts were clocked at 79 mph at the Palmer Airport.

Posted on the Palmer Alaska Buzz Facebook page, this preserved copy of the front page of the Frontiersman on Feb. 14, 1979.

On Saturday 10,000 were out of power, a number that grew to 22,000 at times on Sunday. Right now, about 16,000 are without power, MEA said, and the power line crews are in a game of whack-a-mole — as they fix one area, another area goes down. Lineman have been working 16 hours straight, said Jennifer Castro of MEA. Crews are coming in from Anchorage and Fairbanks and other areas to assist.

Some people may be without power for the week, MEA advises.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Why do we all must declare every disaster a disaster. We will have to learn pay for things ourselves without government parental support. How ever will we manage if our d.c federal government collapses? And we don’t know how to locally pull together.

    • This particular region businesses owners and government should have an excess of money since last year because of an anchoage shopping traffic increase . That was the LORD Preparing matsu for their small unexpected inconvienance

      • You assume way to much about excess monies from Anchorage shoppers. This was a weather event called a Bora, and not every resident of this area got extra monies, a business staying open doesn’t mean profits increased all that much. Most traffic was from events being hosted here and not in Anchorage, it was a huge surplus.

        What do you mean by Lord? Just FYI there are 200+ plus religion and not everyone shares the same ideology. Nobody can be fully prepared for unexpected events, nor is your lord going to protect everyone. This wasnt a small inconvenience.

        If this is how people who follow your faith act towards others then keep your religion to yourself. Next time show compassion for others.

        I am one of those affected, so please don’t offer your assistance, its not wanted.

    • I think it’s so they can set up the shelters, extra assistance for power outages. I agree about getting prepared and not relying on government to save us though. We have a wood stove that kept us safe and warm without power all night. Every Alaskan should have a wood stove!

    • Jen,
      I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the reason they “declare every disaster a disaster” is because it’s a disaster. If it wasn’t a disaster they probably wouldn’t declare it as such.
      .
      Reminds me of the show the Office when Michael declares bankruptcy ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-m3RtoguAQ’
      .
      Anyways, when a disaster is declared what it does for the most part is get excessive regulation and overburdensome government out of the way so that actual response can take place during dire circumstances. In many ways if we were in a perpetual state of declared disaster we would be better off since excessive regulation and overburdensome government wouldn’t be in the way.

  2. Look, here are a couple of suggestions for those who have natural gas heat…install a correct size “tee” on your gas line then from the tee install “black” gas line pipe until you get in the area where you can place a Mr Heater natural gas heater, from the end of the gas line use a correct size reducer and use the same type of line used for your gas kitchen stove…here’s what you get, NO electricity is required to run the heater,you start the pilot lite using a piezoelectric button…requires a couple of aa batteries. Once stared you adjust the settings however you like…low, medium, high or anywhere in between..automatic low oxygen shutdown and automatically shut off if carbon monoxide…you do NOT need electricity to run this natural gas heater. My house is 2,400 square feet and there’s no problem heating it. I purchased mine a couple of years ago for $250 at AIH

  3. Insurance and other aid, that people paying premiums and taxes pay for, often don’t kick in, or are hard fought, unless the declaration is made. Frivolous claims should not be paid, but real people, who pay taxes and premiums, have suffered harm and need remedy.

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