High winds and heavy rain wreaked havoc on Juneau Friday night as a low pressure system made landfall in the Southeast.
With winds gusting as high as 70 mph, according to the National Weather Service, and heavy rainfall, tree falls and power outages were common throughout town, including damage that briefly knocked out all power in Juneau.
“We had a phase-to-phase outage where conductors come into contact with each other due to high winds near Snettisham,” said Alaska Electric Light and Power vice president of community affairs Debbie Driscoll in a phone interview. “We were able to restore power for most customers within the hour.”
Emergency personnel also had a full dance card as the widespread power outage caused its own secondary issues.
“It was a lively evening,” said Capital City Fire/Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Ed Quinto in an interview. “As soon as the power went out we had multiple calls.”
With emergency calls ranging from people trapped in an elevator to car wrecks to medical calls to a tree knocking down a diesel storage tank, Quinto said, CCFR had a busy time of it.
“We had more EMS calls,” Quinto said. “And when the lights went back on, all the fire alarms went off.”
He added that the Department of Environmental Conservation responded to the spilled diesel.
The worst of the storm is over, according to social media posts from the National Weather Service-Juneau station. Juneau’s highest recorded wind gust was at the Alaska Marine Lines pier, clocking in at 71 mph, according to the NWS.
As this storm tracks northward, we are expecting the winds to slow down through Saturday. But here is a quick look at the strongest wind gusts from the last 12 hours (ending at 2:30 AM, speeds are in mph). #akwx pic.twitter.com/ibOgbYVPcF
— NWS Juneau (@NWSJuneau) October 2, 2021
“I heard the worst was supposed to be last night,” Quinto said. “Today is clean up time for everyone.”
The wind affected things all over Juneau, downing trees citywide and leaving some without power into Saturday afternoon, particularly the Mendenhall Peninsula Road area, according to Alaska Electric Light and Power Company’s social media.
“There’s extensive damage in that area that is going to take more than a day to restore,” Driscoll said. “We certainly were well aware that we probably wouldn’t have much sleep last night with the winds what they were. The first storm is typically the worst, seeing which trees were not well rooted and are coming down.”
The U.S. Forest Service’s Tongass National Forest social media account also posted about significant risk of landslides in the wilderness with the saturated soils.
With the current storm, already saturated soils across the forest will be processing increased water for up to two days. Making #landslides possible this weekend. Please avoid steep areas with noticeable movement, have an evacuation plan, watch drainage patterns, and stay alert. pic.twitter.com/TJcnLpVSl6
— Tongass Nat'l Forest (@TongassNF) October 2, 2021
“Road signs were all over the place. Garbage cans were all over the place,” Quinto said. “I noticed siding was off a bunch of houses.”
AEL&P crews have been responding to outages citywide, from Out the Road. Crews have been handling outages since roughly 9 p.m. Friday, according to Driscoll
Outage update: we still have about a dozen small outages the crews are working on. The Mendenhall Peninsula Road outage is significant and will likely take more than a day to repair and restore. We are pulling in additional resources and crews to help with that restoration.
— AEL&P (@AELPJUNEAU) October 2, 2021
“I saw them all over the place,” Quinto said. “All their crews were out.”
No injuries have been reported yet as a result of the storm, Quinto said, with only minor delays in service during the height of the severe weather, though one firefighter was stranded in his residence by downed trees.
“CCFR was able to handle everything last night,” Quinto said.
AEL&P’s work will continue for the next several days, Driscoll said.
“Right now, we’re still in triage,” Driscoll said. “We’re getting everything done that absolutely needs to get done, but we’re going to be doing cleanup for a week or so.”
The most effective way to contact AEL&P if there’s an outage that hasn’t been posted about on their social media is to call 907-586-2357, Driscoll said. Messages to the company’s social media accounts about outages that AEL&P has already posted about can confuse the issue.