High winds blow snow out of the Sheep Creek valley south of downtown Juneau in March 2013. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

High winds blow snow out of the Sheep Creek valley south of downtown Juneau in March 2013. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

A cold wind blows: Taku Winds coming Friday

The beginning of the weekend will be a blustery one.

The National Weather Service station in Juneau has issued a high wind warning for late Thursday through Friday at midnight.

“We’re looking at gusts of up to 80 mph,” said Brian Bezenek, a meteorologist for the NWS in Juneau. “There will be sustained winds of 20-30 mph.”

This will be the first appearance of the Taku winds this year. They’ve been largely absent this winter.

“You can get as few as one or two in a year or you could get quite a few,” Bezenek said. “They could last for a day or two or they could last for a week or more.”

The winds will hit downtown Juneau and Douglas the hardest, Bezenek said.

“It’s one of the areas that we have a low level spot in the ridge that it’s easier for the air to flow through that,” Bezenek said. “It just so happens that Douglas is on the other side and parts of downtown are right on the edge.”

With winds expected to gust at 80 mph on Friday, Bezenek warned that being outside could be deleterious to one’s health, with loose objects likely to be blown at high speeds. Bezenek also warned that the wind chill will be below zero degrees, making the risk of frostbite on exposed skin more likely.

Taku winds come from large masses of cold air on the other side of the mountains in Canada, Bezenek said. The Taku, a type of mountain wave, develops from a pressure imbalance that pulls the wind through passes in the mountains and down the side of the mountains, where they’ve been clocked at more than 80 mph as recently as 2011.

The NWS warning also advised people to be aware that blowing snow might reduce visibility, and that power outages caused by downed lines might be possible. The Taku is also expected to complicate driving.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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