Chinook gusts up to 80 mph knock out power around Interior

The wheels of the old Alaska Railroad passenger car were still attached to the short sections of rail that sat on after Monday’s windstorm. (Credit Facebook)

Golden Valley Electric Association crews are still working to repair damage to power lines caused by warm chinook winds that blasted the Interior over the weekend, especially around Delta Junction. On Monday, gusts of up to 80 miles an hour knocked over a 48-ton railroad car in Delta.

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Cliff Mason said he was just making his way back Monday morning to the hotel he works at in Delta when he saw the 100-foot-long Alaska Railroad passenger car flop onto its side.

“I was coming back, and I’m pulling in and I look over to my left and I see something moving,” Masons said. “And I’m like, ‘What the heck?’ And I look over and I just happened to see it falling right over on the edge.”

Yvonne Echo-Hawk is co-owner of Kelly’s Alaska Country Inn, and she says she parked the old double-decker railcar next door to the hotel several years ago, where it had sat undisturbed – until Monday.

“They were huge, gusting winds,” Echo-Hawk said. “There’s trees down all over the place.”

Echo-Hawk bought the railcar from the Alaska Railroad after it was put out of service in 2001. She says she’d planned to convert it into a coffee shop – and despite Monday’s mishap, she still does.

“We’re going to pick it back up, get it real stable, and set it down on its permanent resting place,” Echo-Hawk said.

National Weather Service climate specialist Rick Thoman confirmed it was indeed a blustery day in that part of the Interior.

“Many reports from Delta south along the Delta River there, of 70 to 80-mile-an-hour wind gusts,” Thoman said. “A very strong chinook.”

Meanwhile, crews with Golden Valley Electric Association are still working in the area today to restore electricity in neighborhoods where it had been knocked out by trees blown over onto power lines.

“We had a crew working in Delta throughout the weekend, and again today we have a Fairbanks crew helping our line person down there,” Golden Valley spokeswoman Corinne Bradish said.

Bradish says crews also were repairing lines around Healy over the weekend. She says they’ll continue to work in outlying areas as long as necessary.

“We’ll just continue doing this to get power restored until these winds die down,” Bradish said.

Thoman says they may get a breather for a day or two. But he says another chinook is on the way.

“We’re are not done with this,” Thoman said. “We are stuck in this very mild, southerly flow-aloft pattern. And it looks likely we’ll have another round of strong chinook winds through the Alaska Range passes later on this week.”

Thoman said the weather system raised temperatures into the 40s in Delta on Monday. He says the mercury climbed to 46 in Anchorage, 59 in Ketchikan and 62 in Metlakatla.