Winds topped 100 miles per hour at the Ketchikan airport Thursday during a two-day windstorm that downed trees and knocked out power to more than 1,800 homes and businesses.
Southern Southeast had a couple days of blustery weather.
“We had gusts upwards of 68 miles per hour with the roof wind at the Ketchikan airport reaching 109 mile-per-hour gust. We also had, around the area, Lincoln Island at 94 miles per hour, Ward Cove area, 80 miles per hour,” National Weather Service forecaster Peter Boyd said in a Friday phone interview.
That’s National Weather Service forecaster Peter Boyd. That capped off two days of intense winds in the Ketchikan area. Public safety officials urged residents to stay off the roads as trees crashed down onto North Tongass Highway.
Jeremy Bynum of Ketchikan Public Utilities says a windstorm like this can wreak havoc.
“When we see the 70, 80, 90 mile an hour winds, you can see situations where the tops of the trees will break off, and they’ll go quite a ways,” he said Friday.
He says broken, uprooted and leaning trees knocked out power to customers all over Ketchikan. In one case, a tree hit a line that takes power to customers north of the city limits.
“That’s where we lost service to 1,811 customers,” he said.
Bynum says crews had the lights back on by a little after 9 a.m., just 46 minutes after the north-end went dark.
He also listed two smaller outages on the north side of the island in the Pond Reef and Point Higgins areas.
“We’re talking 20, 25 customers,” Bynum said
Bynum says customers all over Ketchikan lost power during the storm — the city’s four linemen responded to more than a dozen calls.
“The majority of the outages were in isolated areas and didn’t affect a large number of customers,” he said.
Bynum says crews work during the summer to clear trees from power line corridors, but with storms as powerful as this one, it’s difficult to protect lines from flying debris.
“So you might have a hemlock, for example, that’s 50, 60 feet from where our lines are, and then the wind just blows the top of it completely off and into our lines. So those are scenarios that we can’t really prevent,” he said.
He says given the severity of the storm, he’s satisfied with the utility’s response.
“In years past, you might have had a big wind event like this come through, and it would have been major outages island-wide,” he said.
Bynum says the power was back on all over Ketchikan by Thursday evening.
A spokesman for the state transportation department says the storm also may have damaged a floatplane dock near Metlakatla. But state officials say they don’t know the extent of the damage yet, since the department doesn’t have staff stationed in the area.
Forecasters expect southern Southeast to see lighter winds over the weekend before another storm moves in next week. Fortunately, Boyd says, it’s unlikely to be quite as intense as the last week of January.