Extreme winds knock out power for thousands, causing dangerous driving conditions from Anchorage to the Mat-Su

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Roads remain dangerous and power outages persist into the evening hours in parts of Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley.

5:40 p.m. Friday – Blizzard warnings extended, high winds expected to continue through the night

Peak wind gusts so far reached 83 mph on the Glenn Highway in Palmer, with the Palmer airport seeing 77 mph, and the Wasilla airport seeing 73 mph. Residents were asked to stay indoors and off the roads if at all possible.

Anchorage International Airport saw a wind gust of 68 miles per hour. This stands as the third strongest wind event for Anchorage – ever.

UPDATE FROM WASILLA P.D. : The Parks Hwy is CLOSED from PWH to Crusey. They say no one should be on the roads right now due to the extreme winds, large drifts, and multiple vehicles stuck.

From Downtown Anchorage to Palmer, we’re seeing extreme winds now taking their toll. From blowing snow to power outages and extreme wind chill for anyone having to be out in it.
The high winds will continue through this evening with gusts to 55 mph on the west and north sides of Anchorage and to 80 mph in Wasilla and Palmer. Please stay safe!

Posted by Melissa Frey on Friday, December 23, 2022

An amplified pattern with high pressure to the north and low pressure to the south is forcing high winds from the Bering Sea Coast to the Copper River Basin. The wind will gradually taper off Saturday afternoon in the Mat-Su and in Anchorage, although high winds should be expected through Saturday morning. A Blizzard warning is in effect through 9 a.m. Saturday from Wasilla east to Chickaloon.

4:50 p.m. Friday – Parks Hwy. closed; parts of Mat-Su still without power

According to a dispatch from the Wasilla Police Department, the Palmer-Wasilla Highway is closed in both directions.

Meanwhile, several blocks of the Mat-Su Valley remain in the middle of a prolonged power outage, according to MEA. Over 6,000 homes and businesses – or roughly 10 percent – are without power in the areas of Wasilla proper and Knik/Goose Bay. Overall, about 7,300 (11 percent) of the company’s customers have no power.

The Anchorage area is almost entirely powered back on. After reporting close to 5,000 outages this morning in its service area, Chugach Electric now shows only 30 locations without power, less than 1 percent.

12:45 p.m. Friday – Authorities advise public to avoid dangerous driving conditions along Glenn Highway.

Alaska State Troopers have advised drivers in Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys to avoid travel if possible due to the high winds and blowing snow.

With a peak wind gust of 83 mph, which qualifies as hurricane-force winds, being reported near Palmer, the windy weather has created dangerous snow drifts by scattering the record amount of snow that fell on the region in the weeks prior.

Additionally, Matanuska Electric Association was reporting nearly 30% of its customer base without power as of 12:30p.m. Friday, according to its outage map, but the company has since restored power to many customers in the areas most affected, including the greater Palmer and Butte communities.

Thousands of residents in Anchorage and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys have been without power Friday morning.(Courtesy Alaska 511)

11:30 a.m. Friday – Wind gusts near and just over hurricane strength

A Blizzard Warning remains in effect for the lower Matanuska River Valley until 8 p.m. This includes Wasilla, Palmer, Sutton, and Chickaloon. Sustained northeast winds between 30 to 45 mph with gusts of 65 to 83 mph have been hammering the area since early Friday morning. These strong, potentially damaging winds, will continue at this level for the afternoon and evening. Plan for the likelihood of additional power outages and reduced visibility on the Glenn and the Parks Highways.

Peak wind gusts
Peak wind gusts(KTUU)
Extreme winds - Friday
Extreme winds – Friday(KTUU)
Wind gusts next 48 hours
Wind gusts next 48 hours(KTUU)

11 a.m. Friday – More homes in Valley without power

Over 10,000 more MEA customers are without power, according to the MEA outage map. The map tallies over 19,000 outages just after 11 a.m. MEA reported in a Facebook post of losing a second transmission line that serves Butte, Palmer, Sutton and Glacierview.

Much of the power has been restored to Anchorage-area businesses and homes. Chugach Electric has less than 300 customers without power, restoring over 4,000 outages in the last hour and a half.

9:30 a.m. Friday – MEA, Chugach Electric customers dealing with outages

More than 4,700 Chugach Electric customers are without power in Anchorage, according to the company’s outage map. The majority of the outages are around the Sand Lake and Jewel Lake areas, where 2,183 and 2,105 customers are without power, respectively.

More than 6,700 Matanuska Electric Association customers were without power as of 9:30 a.m., according to the company’s outage map. The majority of the outages are along the highway between Wasilla and Palmer, around Chugiak, and in Eagle River. Those three areas account for nearly 4,500 of the outages.

MEA said in a Facebook post that a transmission line problem zapped power to the LaZelle substation in the region around the Palmer-Wasilla and Parks highways, leaving over 83% of customers without power, according to the company.

The company said bucket trucks dispatched to solve the outages have been slowed by the high winds and snow drifts, making outage times longer than usual.

5 a.m. Friday – Thousands without power in Mat-Su

As of 5 a.m. Friday, over 5,500 MEA customers were without power, according to the company’s outage map. Most of those — about 3,374 — were from the Big Lake area, accounting for nearly all residents in that region, and at one point said close to 4,500 homes were without power.

MEA said in an update around 5:45 a.m. that most customers in the Big Lake area had power restored after crews were able to reroute power after discovering that an entire substation was down. The company said that no obvious cause was discovered for the outage but suggested that power lines slapping together could be the cause.

The company was also reporting almost half of all Point McKenzie residents, or 153 of 332, were without power.

Wind gusts of up to 53 mph were reported in Palmer, according to the National Weather Service, and gusts of up to 65 mph were expected in areas of the Valley.

MEA said in an update at 8:15 a.m. Friday that a new outage was reported in Chugiak and Eagle River, with over 2,800 residents in that area dealing with power issues.

The company also said that about 2,100 members lost power earlier in the night along Knik-Goose Bay Road, and crews were dispatched there to determine a cause for the outage.

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