Air pipes

Strong winds and freezing temperatures cause downed trees and frozen pipes in Skagway Wednesday night | KHNS Radio

A downed tree near Dairy Drive in Skagway, DOT State workers moved it to allow access to the neighborhood. (photo Mike Swasey)

Extreme winds and cold temperatures continue to grip Skagway. There were reports of downed trees and branches, frozen pipes and shattered windows after the wind chill dropped to nearly 40 below zero on Wednesday evening. Weather conditions have also caused delays in the delivery of goods to local traders.

The Juneau National Weather Service recorded wind speeds at Skagway Airport as strong as 56 knots Wednesday evening.

“It’s 64 miles per hour,” said meteorologist Pete Boyd. He also said the winds may subside before the weekend, but another large system is expected to cross the area by Sunday.

“First, we are going to start seeing warm temperatures. Second, we’re going to see a significant amount of snow starting to move into Skagway, you’re starting to get a little more on Sunday. But we also see the winds picking up. So gusts back up to 40, probably 50 miles per hour as the systems move,” Boyd said.

Alaska Marine Lines is the company that unloads the freight and delivers it to town. But Lee McKinney of the AC Fairway Market says they tried to unload cargo from the grocery store on Wednesday and again Thursday without success.

“It’s not just the wind, but I understand extreme cold takes its toll on equipment as well,” McKinney said.

He said AML uses a pass-through system where there is one forklift on the barge and one on land. The two operators exchange freight. But between equipment problems, strong winds and rough seas, the barge remains moored and nothing has been unloaded as of Thursday afternoon.

“I’m in favor of their safety, I mean, it’s cargo, it’s important. I want it in the store so I can sell it. But I don’t want anyone getting hurt doing this,” McKinney said.

A representative for AML declined to comment directly for this article, but said the barge would not leave Skagway until it was unloaded.

Laura Mabee lives in a second floor rental in the middle of town. She says it’s an older house, drafty, and the drafts have caused the pipes leading to the water heater to freeze.

“It happened pretty quickly and the heater was actually right next to it. Maybe a few inches away,” Mabee said.

She said she moved her bedroom into the living room on Wednesday night.

“It’s a nice cozy nest in front of my Toyo that I created with lamb skins and all my quilts. I brought about 10 pillows into the living room and chose to sleep on the floor right in front of my heater,” Mabee said it sounded like an earthquake rumbling all night.

Lee Thompson lives in a shack on the north side of Skagway, in addition to the material of his brand new metal pole and wind-blown fabric carport, the noise he created didn’t allow him much rest Wednesday evening.

A snow squall near Skagway Airport as winds blow over 50mph. (photo Mike Swasey)

“Loud banging, falling branches. I heard two things hit the roof of the house. And it was, yeah, it kind of made me question the structural integrity of the house that I live in,” Thompson said.

Neither fire departments nor Skagway police reported any emergency calls overnight, but DOT crews cleared a cottonwood tree that had toppled over Dairy Drive at the north end of the town Thursday morning. Other low trees were spotted at Seven Pastures and scattered branches joined large snowdrifts across the city.

The people of Skagway are used to high winds and cold temperatures, but most are scrambling for this cold snap to finally pass.

A high wind warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday, a wind chill advisory is in place until noon Friday, and a winter storm warning was issued Sunday through Monday.