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.
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.
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.