Bristol Bay braces for windy night, round two

Dec 29, 2015

NWS predicting east, southeast winds up to 90 mph will impact AP communities Tuesday night, with stronger winds slamming Bristol Bay's north coast communities Wednesday morning.

Credit National Weather Service Alaska

KDLG:  Bristol Bay communities are preparing for what may be one of the windiest nights of the year.  

A high wind warning from the National Weather Service goes into effect at 9 p.m. through 12 p.m. Wednesday, with wind speeds predicted at 80 miles an hour, possibly gusting to 100 mph.

"There's kind of two parts to this storm," said Rebecca Duell, an NWS meteorogist in Anchorage Tuesday morning. "There's the pre-frontal passage, which is before the front passes. What we're going to see is a typical windy night for most of the area. Areas in the lee of the Aleutian Range are going to get the brunt of the impact through the evening hours."

That first push should begin Tuesday night and continue through Wednesday morning. Iliamna-area communities may see gusts around 90 mph, and Alaska Peninsula communities from Naknek to Port Heiden may see gusts to 75 mph.

Part two of this storm, after the frontal passage, will impact Bristol Bay's northern coastline from Cape Newenham to Dillingham, packing a lot of punch in the morning hours Wednesday.

"Into the early hours of tomorrow morning, when this system then moves into Bristol Bay, is where we're going to start to see the fairly extreme winds," said Duell. "For the north Bristol Bay coast, we'll be expecting winds from the south up to 80 miles an hour, and exposed areas may see frequent gusts up to 100 miles an hour."

The winds are expected to subside by late in the day Wednesday. 

This low pressure system comes on the heels of several others that have brought stormy, and now warm, wet weather to Southwest Alaska, including one of the strongest storms on record two weeks ago. NWS said the weather pattern has shifted, with a blocking ridge directing the jet stream so that storms from the North Pacific are being pushed up into southern Alaska. That is similar to what caused the "lost" winters of 2013-14, and 2014-15.

"This truck was blown off the Portage Highway, near the Whittier Tunnel, where winds are 91 mph.," the Dept. of Transportation wrote Monday.
Credit AKDOT

Strong winds Monday caused a number of problems around the state, overturning a pair of semi-trucks, forcing the closure of the Whittier Tunnel, and even knocking out power in Fairbanks.

Bristol Bay had a windy Christmas Day. Sustained winds of 62 mph were recorded in Port Heiden Friday, with the strongest gust at 79 mph, causing some damage around the village. 

Damage in Port Heiden from the Christmas day blow.
Credit Maranda Shade

"It was quite a mess," said Port Heiden's John Christensen. "A couple buildings got the siding ripped off, and we had to roll back over two connex boxes. One boat was blown off its blocks. We lost a few dumpsters, and the barn that we're building for reindeer had some damage, but we'll be able to fix that."

Christensen said some windows were broken out of vehicles as well.

Port Heiden is no stranger to a strong blow.

"We seen it, I think it was 160 knots down here. That was in '99. And a few years ago it hit 130 knots," he said.

Connex rolled over from winds on Christmas Day in Port Heiden. The winds Tuesday and Wednesday are forecast to be stronger.
Credit Maranda Shade

Wind damage in Port Heiden.
Credit Maranda Shade

One Kokhanok resident spotted this another common murres around the Lake. Several were dead. He says they're not common to the area, and believes they've been blown in by the recent storms and perhaps "ran out of gas."
Credit Gary Nielsen