High winds and low near-zero temperatures are expected to continue through Tuesday in the Mat-Su region with wind chills in the range of -15 degrees Fahrenheit to -35 degrees Fahrenheit, National Weather Service meteorologists said Monday at a briefing held by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
Some high wind conditions could continue into Wednesday, said Aviva Braun, weather coordination meteorologist.
Matanuska Susitna Borough Manager Mike Brown said that so far there have been no serious injuries or fatalities from the storm. But the prolonged power outages has created discomfort and the possibility of danger.
An estimated 10,000 Matanuska Electric Association customers were still without power as of mid-morning Monday, MEA spokesperson Jennifer Castro said at the briefing. That had been as high as 22,000 over the weekend as winds velocity hit peaks, Castro said.
The situation can be “dangerous and life threatening” for those without power, officials said.
MEA began calling out line crews late Friday when the first high wind warnings were posted and on Monday the utility’s crews were being supplemented by line crews from Chugach Electric Assoc. in Anchorage and Golden Valley Electric Assoc. in Fairbanks.
Some residents in the Trapper Creek and Talkeetna areas reporting having been without electricity for 48 hours as of mid-day Monday. MEA has crews in the area now, the utility said.
Winds as high as 91 miles per hour were recorded near the Glenn Highway/Parks Highway interchange, with wind gusts of 88 miles per hour at the Palmer airport and 74 miles per hour at the Wasilla airport.
Braun, of the National Weather Service, said what is creating the current conditions is movement of cold air in a high pressure zone in Canada’s Yukon Territory across Southcentral Alaska toward a warmer, low pressure area in the Gulf of Alaska.
The pressure variation brings air moving a high speeds across the Matanuska-Susitna region, she said.
Schools were closed Monday and that will continue Tuesday with information go be available mid-Tuesday if the closure is to be extended, Mat-Su School District Superintendent Randy Traini said.
“So far all of our school facilities appear to be in good shape as far as electrical, water and heating, with some minor damage,” Traini said.
Mat-Su Borough Borough manager Mike Brown said at the briefing that the borough had issued a disaster declaration Monday morning and asked Gov. Mike Dunleavy to issue a state disaster declaration.
The declarations have the effect of making resources available to the borough for storm response. So far two shelters are open in Wasilla and one in Palmer, with food, hot beverages and cots for sleeping, said Ken Barkley, the borough’s emergency service director.
Additional shelters may open in the Talkeetna area if power outages continue.
Mat-Su Mayor Edna DeVries said the borough is doing everything it can to get information to residents, with a hotline for questions at 907 861 7000. MEA’s hotline is at 907 746 7697, she said.
DeVries said she had been without power in her own home for 14 hours as of Monday. “We’re trying to shelter-in-place but that emergency shelter at the Palmer Senior Center is starting to look pretty warm and comfortable,” the mayor said.