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Mon, Jan 10, 2022

Anchorage Airport Sees Brutal Windstorm

5 Planes Totaled While Volunteers Saved What Aircraft They Could

A severe windstorm struck Alaska earlier this week, wreaking havoc across the south central region, with winds up to 91 mph causing damage to vehicles, power lines, and equipment.

Witnesses were surprised to see the level of damage caused by breakaway aircraft, which were subjected to such forces that tiedown anchors and ropes were ripped from their attachment points.

The airport at Palmer Municipal saw at least 5 aircraft totaled from the storm in Matanuska-Susitna, and locals say they were able to batten down the hatches just in time to stop worse damage. Local Don Hammond saw the winds pick up his PA-32 Cherokee Six and dash it inverted against the tarmac. Preliminary estimates by locals put the damage to buildings alone at over $1 million, with unknown levels of repair needed to get those aircraft airworthy once again. 

Hammond's efforts to secure planes paid dividends, he said. Other people near the airport often patrol for loose aircraft ahead of inclement weather, which this time was able to limit damages.

Hammond's team saw one aircraft break free from its moorings and careen across the tie-down area, colliding with multiple aircraft as it was tossed about. Those present put out the call for large, heavy vehicles capable of working as windbrakes in front of the parking areas, and they were surprised by the response. Residents of the area report little assistance from government entities throughout the storm, only afterwards learning that Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a state disaster declaration for the area, hopefully opening up their coffers to cover damages to the aircraft.

The storm coming at the tail end of a 2-year pandemic that cratered aerial tourism could prove to be the final straw for operators already bereft of savings. State assistance to acquire replacement assets and aircraft would go a long way towards restoring the region's uniquely aviation-heavy economy.

FMI: www.alaska.gov

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