Anchorage Residents Endure, Recover From Wind Storm

Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage

The powerful windstorm that hit Anchorage last night took down trees across the city and caused extensive damage to some homes and cars.

Like many residents of Anchorage, Margi Stapleton could not sleep last night. As the wind blew, she says she was upstairs in her bedroom, praying and reading- alone in her house. Eventually she got scared and went downstairs.

Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage

“And I tried to sleep on the couch, I couldn’t, so I got up and looked out the window and that’s when I saw the tree swaying back and forth and it looked like it was uprooting from the bottom, from the roots. And sure enough, 20 minutes later, it just cracked. And then this one up here broke up and fell on the other side. So there are two trees fallen on top of my house. And there’s a big branch that went through my garage door, so there’s a big hole in there,” Stapleton said.

The two trees are nearly blocking the entrance to Stapleton’s house off of Boniface in East Anchorage. Stapleton’s friend and neighbor, Linda Garrett also lost a tree in her backyard, but it didn’t damage her house. Still, she says it was a frightening night.

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 30 years. This is the worst that’s ever happened. It was like being in a hurricane last night,” Garrett said.

As Garrett and Stapleton talk, Stapleton’s next door neighbor, Corey Michael Erickson, walks over. She reaches out to give him a hug.

“Come here, come here, I gotta give you a hug,” Stapleton said.

“Oh man, I’ve been helping everyone out I haven’t slept since,” Erickson replied.

Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage

Erickson watched the tree fall on Stapleton’s house in the middle of the night. He raced over to make sure she was okay.

In neighborhood after neighborhood, Anchorage residents are shaking their heads and picking up the pieces. In Nunaka Valley, trees were down in nearly every yard. At 10:00 a.m., the main access road to the neighborhood was still blocked by several downed trees. I park on one side of the roadblock and walk up to a massive tree lying across the street. Leola Montero is on the other side.

“This is the main access in, and it’s completely shut off as you can see by at least five or six trees, or more. And the other access over by Nunaka School was pretty much closed as well. They got that one cleared, somewhere around 8:00 this morning. But, throughout the neighborhood, many of the streets have trees down, there’s several on houses, several on cars. But the good part is most of the trees that are on the houses and cars [caused] very little damage.  But they’re very large trees,” Montero said.

It’s a day when anybody with a chainsaw is very much in demand. Aaron Pascar, with Nunaka Valley Neighborhood patrol has been clearing trees from roads.

He started working overnight to make sure emergency vehicles and the power companies could get into the neighborhood.

“We got two chainsaws. There’s a couple guys besides Keith and myself. And we’re wrapping chains around [the trees], after we cut them up into good-sized chunks, and then we haul them to the side of the road,” Pascar said.

Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN - Anchorage

On another street in East Anchorage, Shane Goetsch is standing outside his house. The only tree in his front yard is lying on its side.

“Well last night, of course, the wind came up and [we] had the windows open, and we actually watched the trees sway back and forth and one of the sways was just a little bit too large and it took the tree down. It was a beautiful weeping birch, and it will be missed,” Goetsch said.

Goetsch actually owns a landscaping business. As he talked, his work truck was idling in front of his house. He was about to head out for what he suspected would be a very full day

“We just did one for the neighbor. A tree fell on his driveway, and of course he couldn’t get his cars out, so we cut that up this morning and got that out of the way. I’m sure we’ll be doing more of that as the day progresses,” Goetsch said.

Goetsch says he has lived all over Alaska since 1996 and has never experienced anything like the high winds that hit his neighborhood last night.