All Mat-Su schools will open on Monday following violent windstorm
Outages begin to climb for Mat-Su residents as another less intense wind event rolls in this weekend
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - All schools in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District will be open again on Monday, following several days of closures due to a dayslong windstorm that wreaked havoc on the area beginning over the New Year’s Day weekend.
In a post to social media Friday, the district announced that all schools will open for classes on Monday, and that additional needed repairs to school facilities are scheduled to take place over the weekend. The district has cited a number of maintenance issues and damage that occurred during the storm, including water line breaks, boiler failures, flooding and fire suppression system failures that needed to be fixed.
The district was able to open six schools on Thursday, but the rest remained closed while the district continued to work on repairs.
According to the post on the district’s Facebook page, its facilities department is working to keep indoor temperatures up and prevent any further freezing to the domestic water lines or heating components.
“However, as buildings warm, additional leaks may be discovered or pipe breaks may occur from rapid temperature changes,” the post reads. “If additional damage is identified and a school is unable to open Monday, the District will notify families and staff.”
The school district is not the only entity dealing with repairs in the wake of the violent windstorm that tore through the Mat-Su, knocking out power for as many as 22,000 customers at its peak. Matanuska Electric Association had finished restoring power to the vast majority of members by Friday morning, with its outage map showing just 12 customers still without power on Friday afternoon.
Another wind event is forecast for the Mat-Su this weekend. While not as intense as the last storm, winds of 25 to 40 mph are expected, with gusting up to 55 mph. By Friday evening, the number of power outages in the Palmer and Wasilla area had begun to creep up again as winds picked up, with the MEA outage map showing just over 1,100 outages around 9 p.m.
The utility is aware of the second forecasted wind event, posting to its social media on Friday afternoon that it was prepared for it.
“We are about to head into another wind advisory for the Mat-Su area this weekend and are fully prepared to respond to any outages that may occur,” the post reads.
In a separate post later on Friday, the utility noted the rise in outages and said it was sending crews to address them.
“Winds have started to pick up in Wasilla and Palmer,” the subsequent post reads.
The American Red Cross of Alaska shelter set up at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla will stay open through the weekend, the organization announced online.
As it ripped through the Valley, the previous windstorm reached speeds of more than 80 mph and flipped over semitrucks as well as planes at the Palmer airport. It ripped roofs off of buildings and caused significant damage to at least five commercial buildings.
Many businesses are now in the process of recovering and rebuilding. One Palmer business, Airframes Alaska, had its roof blown off earlier this week leading to a broken water main and ice throughout their workshop.
The high winds broke a hole above the Airframes machine shop on the side of the building and blew off a piece of the roof to the other side of the building. The gusts caused temperatures to drop inside their workshop a water main broke leading to a sheet of ice covering the floor.
Airframes is known for building wheels and fuselages for planes, but due to the damage and contamination from the glacial silt that blew into their shop, they are stopping production as they rebuild. The business said deliveries are running about 2-4 weeks behind as they work on repairing the building.
“Once the roofed ripped off it got really cold in here and everything got contaminated by glacial dust,” said spokesperson Ryan Kedzie. “We have employees working in other locations.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy made a disaster declaration for several communities hit my extreme winter storms, including the Mat-Su. Disaster recovery assistance is now available for people affected by the windstorm, and they can apply for disaster recovery grants through the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at ready.alaska.gov.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.
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