Mat-Su schools closed Tuesday after blizzard hits power lines, highways

a highway
A state road camera shows winds blowing snow across the Glenn Highway near the Palmer-Wasilla interchange on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023. (From 511.alaska.gov)

Update 9 p.m. Monday:

All Mat-Su Borough School District schools will be closed Tuesday, due to major power outages across the Matanuska Valley on Monday.

The district announced the closure shortly after 7 p.m. Monday, citing the outages and “continued wind in the core area” of the district.

The decision came almost immediately after the Matanuska Electric Association reported an outage affecting much of the Valley, with about 17,000 members initially offline including the greater Palmer area, Butte and north to Glacierview. Work to restore power was continuing Monday night, with about 3,400 members still affected by the outage as of 10 p.m. Monday.

Original story:

Much of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough was under a blizzard warning Monday, as high winds caused major power outages for thousands during the day and sent snow blowing across major highways.

According to the warning, in effect until 6 a.m. Tuesday, peak winds of up to 70 mph with limited visibility on area roads are expected in Palmer, Wasilla, Sutton and Chickaloon.

National Weather Service meteorologist Carson Jones said Monday afternoon that the winds were being drawn south through the Mat-Su’s main cities, by a large low-pressure system over the southern Gulf of Alaska.

“It’s essentially pulling that colder air out of the Copper River Basin, and it’s funneling it rapidly down the Matanuska Valley and into, kind of, (the) Palmer-Wasilla area and then all the way down Cook Inlet, Knik Arm,” Jones said.

According to Jones, a 71-mph gust had been recorded at the Palmer Airport, with 69-mph winds reported at the Wasilla Airport. Neither facility had reported damaged aircraft to the Weather Service. State offices in the Mat-Su had closed early by 1 p.m. Monday.

The main effect of the winds was a spate of power outages throughout Monday. According to the Matanuska Electric Association Facebook page, by 3 p.m. crews were working on an outage linked to a Knik-Goose Bay Road substation affecting more than 1,800 members. Linemen had previously restored power to 9,000 people in Houston and near Wasilla’s Hollywood and Vine roads, as well as 2,400 people in the Wasilla Fishhook area.

No new snow accompanied Monday’s winds, Jones said, but they are picking up snow from the region’s previous storms this month. Low temperatures were still sub-zero across much of the area, with 20 degrees below zero recorded in the Copper River Basin.

Jones said the winds were expected to subside overnight Monday but could briefly shift south into Birchwood or parts of Downtown and West Anchorage.

The forecast into the Thanksgiving weekend calls for warming temperatures and light coastal rain in Anchorage, Palmer and Wasilla.

“If it does happen to remain below freezing at the surface, then there is a chance for some freezing rain,” Jones said.

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Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him atcklint@alaskapublic.org.Read more about Chrishere.

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