Destructive winds flip airplanes, trucks near Anchorage

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Destructive winds battered an area just north of Anchorage for the third straight day on Monday — flipping small airplanes and semitrailers, forcing schools to close, leaving thousands without power and severely damaging a fast-food restaurant.

Two shelters opened for people needing refuge from the powerful winds and cold temperatures in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

A high wind warning was in place until Monday evening for the borough, where the nearby communities of Wasilla and Palmer are located about 45 miles (72 kph) north of Anchorage.

Forecasts called winds of 40 to 50 mph (64-80 kph), with gusts of 80 mph (129 kph), the National Weather Service said.

Borough officials urged residents to shelter in place until the storm passes.

“Reports of impassable roads blocked by trees, downed power lines, shattered windows in homes and vehicles have been received,” the officials said on Facebook.

Schools were closed Monday and more than 17,000 electrical customers were without power in the morning, down from about 19,000 Sunday night.

Damage in the area included reports of downed trees and power lines, roofs blown off buildings and overturned trucks, trailers and airplanes, said National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Kutz.

Wasilla Police urged people to stay away from a fast-food restaurant which with a missing wall and debris piled in the drive-thru lane.

Police said in social media posts that people taking pictures of the site were a problem because officers’ “vehicles are being hit with debris trying to keep people out of the way.”

State transportation officials reported heavy snow drifting, reduced visibility and black ice on the Parks and Glenn highways.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday issued a disaster declaration for the Matanuska-Susitna, Denali and Fairbanks North Star boroughs, along with rural, unincorporated areas near Delta and Copper River. This will allow assistance to individuals or families to meet disaster-related necessary expenses and serious needs, a statement from the governor’s office said.