The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

High winds almost blew Valdez away last week

Ninety-plus MPH winds rip into roofs and polish icy roads

 

Valdez Star photo

This directional sign that was downed during last week's windstorm was one of the first causalities that later saw extensive damages.

Last week's windstorms caused widespread damage throughout town.

Wind gusts clocked up to 96 miles per hour by the National Weather Service Friday shredded roofs, moved dumpsters down city streets and raised eyebrows even among the town's weather-jaded residents.

Police issued a number of warnings Friday through the Nixel alert system advising people to keep off the streets if at all possible.

"Please keep children and pets indoors," police advised in its first alert sent out at 11:30 a.m. Friday after the city closed the Civic Center, library and a number of businesses shuttered their doors early.

Some businesses had no choice.

"Meals Avenue in the vicinity of South Central Hardware is currently closed to traffic due to hazardous flying debris," the police alert said. "Due to the potential for dangerous flying debris throughout the community, residents are encouraged to limit driving to only that necessary and refrain from walking on all city streets until wind speeds diminish."

The move came after a large section of the hardware store's roof peeled off the topside of the building, which also sustained a number of other damages.

The winds even impacted a high profile jury trial taking place in a Valdez courtroom in the state building on Meals Ave.

As police and emergency responders scrambled to block off roads, Judge Eric Smith cleared the courtroom as reports trickled in indicated that the integrity of the roof of the state building was in question and that a runaway dumpster had slid its way through the building's parking lot and had hit a number of vehicles.

"If dumpsters are moving, we got problems," Smith told those assembled in the courtroom, and called for an update on the building's status at 1:30.

The trial later resumed when the court clerk, Lisa Anderson, was able to ascertain that the building's roof was not in dangers of detaching.

Blowing debris were not the only road hazards according to police.

"...the roadways in the Valdez area have become extremely slick. The accumulation of ice and snow has been polished by the high winds and debris," a second alert issued by police said. "Please avoid travel until after the storm and road crews have had an opportunity to maintain the roadway."

The city clerk's office, which also issued a warning from the city, said widespread damages were reported on municipal, state and private properties during the storm.

Valdez Star photo

The roof that peeled off the top of South Central Hardware Friday was one of the more conspicuous damages that unfolded Friday as Valdez emergency responders blocked off portions of Meals Ave. due to dangerous conditions caused by the flying debris.

A number of windows were broken by flying debris caught in the winds from the old Sugar and Spice building on Egan Dr. to a number of damages reported on Airport Road.

The Civic Center rescheduled events that had been slated Friday to Saturday.

"We had some damage to the Civic Center roof but it is under warranty and the damage will be covered," City Clerk Sheri Pierce said in an email Monday. "Our building maintenance crews are inspecting city buildings today so I don't have a good report yet on any other city facilities, other than I can confirm there was only one window damaged at airport and no damage to airport roof."

A full accounting of the amount of siding, eaves and windows that were blown off or damaged, was not available, but anecdotal evidence suggests that small-scale private property damages from downed sheds, roofs, smokes stacks and other easily damaged building parts was fairly widespread.

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