100-foot waves


Near miss of a spruce tree down in Anchorage winds/Craig Medred photo

The 100-foot waves one knowledgeable weather watcher thought might develop south of the Aleutian Islands on Thursday apparently never materialized, but the climatic monster created by the merger of two North Pacific storm systems managed to slide east across the Gulf of Alaska to pound Alaska’s largest city.


Winds gusting to hurricane force swept across the Anchorage Hillside for much of the day. Lights flickered and the power went out in several neighborhoods as trees toppled, but residents of the Chugach Mountain foothills are largely accustomed to this.

Gusts of 90 to 100 mph are not uncommon in the fall.

“Finally, some respectable wind in the neighborhood,” Tim Kelley reported from about 1,100 feet above the the city around midday. ” 92 max so far.”

Hurricane force is 74 mph. The author’s house, which is just downhill from Kelley, was rocking in regular gusts of 80 to 85 for most of the day.

Kelley was watching power lines near a neighbor’s house slap and spark in the wind and wondering why they weren’t buried like many are in the neighborhoods above the city.

Late in the day, the Chugach Electric Association reported about 950 homes without power, but linemen were making repairs and the number was down to 300 by 6:30 p.m.

“Winds appear to be dying down a bit, which is good news for outages,” the utility reported. “We appreciate your patience as our crews continue to work to restore power in our first big wind storm of the season.”

Damages were reported to be minor. Most people had stored for the winter deck furniture and other object prone to go airborne.

The National Weather Service was forecasting a drop in the winds, but conditions were expected to stay gusty into the weekend with winds up to 30 mph.

Pushing in off the Gulf of Alaska, the storm brought warm weather that drove back the start of winter in Alaska’s urban core. The ground had been starting to freeze, and there was an inch or so of snow at the upper limits of human habitation along the edge of the half-million-acre Chugach State Park at Anchorage’s back door.

The storm brought record warmth as it elevated temperatures that had been running a little below normal for the past week to way above normal. The temperature hit 51 degrees, a record for the day, and averaged 44 degrees, a whopping 14 degrees above normal average, according to the National Weather Service. 

And those waves along the Aleutians and into the Gulf of Alaska?

Well, they might not have reached 100 feet, but weather buoys monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were recording waves of over 20 feet throughout the day. That’s about the height of a two-story house.

If you’re out in such conditions in a small boat, the waves come at you like small mountains. It is hard to imagine what a 100 footer would look like.





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