Adak sifts through aftermath of disastrous storm

A major storm ripped through the Aleutian Chain over the weekend, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. It was less severe than expected in some areas — like Unalaska and St. Paul Island — and more severe in others, like Adak.

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Crystal Dushkin on Atka says in a Facebook post that the community's playground was toppled by the storm. Photo: Crystal Dushkin Facebook photo.
Crystal Dushkin on Atka says in a Facebook post that the community’s playground was toppled by the storm. Photo: Crystal Dushkin Facebook photo.

On Adak Island, hurricane-force winds topped out at 122 miles per hour on Sunday.

Adak city manager Layton Lockett says the damage was substantial.

“Lot of personal property damage… the solariums that are attached to people’s homes… A lot of the bigger warehouse buildings had significant damage to them from the pressure and the battering that we received,” Lockett says.

This data snapshot was taken at around 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, Dec. 13. The term "low" is used for a hurricane-force storm in this case. Photo: NWS-Anchorage.
This data snapshot was taken at around 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, Dec. 13. The term “low” is used for a hurricane-force storm in this case. Photo: NWS-Anchorage.

Tugs broke from their moorings, roofs were torn off, and windows were broken in. Several air cargo containers were also blown across town. But Adak’s water, sewer and telecom systems escaped relatively unscathed.

Lockett says even as winds topped 100 miles per hour, the weather forecasts were still reading 90.

“We are very disappointed in the National Weather Service in their communications aspect. Their forecast was not nearly close to being anywhere accurate — nor was it timely updated.”

National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Kutz says NWS’ direct radio contact extends out as far as Dutch Harbor. Beyond that, warnings happen through commercial radio’s Emergency Alert System, the internet and direct correspondence.

“When we put out these warnings they go through several different chains of communication. Depending on who is available at each location will dictate how it’s received. Most locations receive (forecasts) through some sort of law enforcement.”

The worst of the storm has passed in Adak, and the community is currently navigating the process of a disaster declaration.

The storm has turned north and is bearing down on St Lawrence Island, the Seward Peninsula, and the Yukon Delta.

After sweeping through the western Aleutian chain, the storm's turned north and is headed for the central Bering Strait. Several communities are under storm watch.
After sweeping through the western Aleutian chain, the storm’s turned north and is headed for the central Bering Strait. Several communities are under storm watch.