Extreme winds force Whittier tunnel shutdown

High winds in the Portage area and along Turnagain Arm on Monday morning closed the Anton Anderson Tunnel to vehicular traffic. The tunnel links Whittier to the Seward Highway.

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The state Department of Transportation made the announcement this morning. It was in effect until about 4 p.m. DOT spokeswoman Jill Reese:

“This is probably a first. We are trying to break the record up there with wind conditions. It has had sustained winds up there of over 90 miles per hour.”

Reese says the winds, which ripped through higher elevations South of Anchorage, knocked two semi-tailer trucks sideways and off the Portage highway which leads to the tunnel.

“The decision was made to close the tunnel after two semis were blown off the road. One landed on it’s top, the other went into the ditch.”

David Schofield, Whittier’s public safety director, says actually three trucks were affected on the Bear Valley  approach to the tunnel.

“Two trucks lost traction at least on the rear wheels of the trailer, and were able to recover, and one due to wind conditions was overturned by the high winds.”

Schofield says the high winds did not affect downtown Whittier.

Reese says extreme winds on the Glenn Highway have caused at least one semi to jacknife as well.

NWS Meteorologist Dave Snider says Turnagain Arm, Portage Valley and Girdwood in Southcentral Alaska will potentially have higher winds again starting tomorrow night and into Wednesday. Snider says NWS will be watching ice conditions out across the west, with stronger southerly winds working up the west coast.

“We’ll be watching for impacts along the coastline itself, whether that means stronger seas and waves across the coastline and the interaction with any changes in the ice out across the Bering Sea coast, so all these things are pretty large impacts that all play into this warmer weather pattern that we may be stuck in for a little while.”