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Windy weather shuts down power and highway


Photo courtesy of Alesha Jabusch

Wind gusts out the road took metal roofing off and damaged the roof of Jake and Alesha Jabusch's residence.

High winds caused havoc early Tuesday morning in Petersburg and many other Southeast communities, resulting in power outages, damaged homes and blocked highways.

A strong low pressure system hit Southeast with winds gusting from 60 to over 70 mph throughout the Alaska Panhandle, according to NOAA meteorologist Tim Steffen.

"Petersburg itself, the airport is kind of sheltered so we usually don't get good readings," Steffen said. "But it recorded 40 knots, which is actually really impressive for the Petersburg airport."

Forty knots of wind converts to 46 mph, which is pretty high for the area, but less than others recorded in the region, most likely due to the location of the airport. Estimated reports from Wrangell recorded 70 mph winds, and Lincoln Island, just north of Juneau, recorded 73 mph gusts, Steffen said.

Alaska Department of Transportation highway foreman and airport manager Mike Etcher said the high winds caused damage that Petersburg really does not usually experience. Etcher and his crew began working around 5:30 a.m., on a troublesome stretch of Mitkof Highway and had it reopened shortly before 9 a.m.

"It was more severe than we are used to," Etcher said. "But we got it taken care of without too much trouble."

Etcher said nine trees blew down impeding traffic on Mitkof Highway between 15 mile and 17 mile, just north of Crystal Lake Hatchery. Seven or eight of the trees blown down across the highway required a loader because they were too big to move by hand. The damage by the hatchery remains easily visible from the highway, almost creating a clearcut like patch of acre-wide destruction with multiple trees either tipped over or snapped in half.

"In that particular stretch of road it's a strange place sometimes. The wind blows trees down there, but never in this volume," Etcher said. "It was impressive, and I've been here a long time."

The wind also took the roof off of Jake and Alesha Jabusch's home. The wind must have hit the house just right because it peeled the metal roofing off and even took the crown of the roof with it, Etcher said.

Jake Jabusch said the was woken up by a loud bang followed by ruckus.

"I could hear the tin just peeling off, like the screws just going pop, pop, pop," he said. "I look out the back window and there's tin flying out in the muskeg."

After grabbing a flashlight, he ran outside to check the extent of the damage and make sure his fishing vessel by the house was alright. Jabusch then immediately gathered everything that could hold water, including buckets, pots and pans, and made his way up to the attic to try and catch any rain draining into the structure.

"About a third of the tin on the roof ripped off, and that was pretty much it," he said.

Petersburg Municipal Power and Light superintendent Joe Nelson said a tree was blown into a power line around 8 mile, taking the power out from Scow Bay to the south. Power and Light customers in the affected areas were without power from roughly 4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., while the tree was removed allowing power to be restored.

"I would say, two to three times a year we expect winds like this," Nelson said.

Nelson said the damage was far less than customers in Ketchikan dealt with. There were major outages in Ketchikan after wind gusts of 65 mph blew trees into a transmission line, resulting in the town going to diesel generation to deal with the loss of power.


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