Hurricane-force winds cause widespread damage in Unalaska

Unalaska after the storm. (Maggie Nelson/KUCB)

Hurricane-level winds slammed the Aleutian Islands Thursday night, tearing off roofs and tearing boats from their docks.

In Unalaska, the region’s largest city, the National Weather Service recorded wind gusts of up to 132 mph.

“This was a very, very strong storm for so far east,” said climatologist Rick Thoman, who works for the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “And for the Eastern Aleutians, you were right in the worst place of the storm.”

Hurricane-level winds slammed the Aleutian Islands Thursday night, toppling trucks in Unalaska. (Maggie Nelson/KUCB)

The storm’s strength didn’t come so much from high wind gusts, but from how long they lasted, according to Thoman. Last night’s storm produced sustained winds over 40 mph for 11 consecutive hours, which he said marks the longest sustained winds there in at least a decade.

“It’s not that winds as high as they gusted in this event don’t happen — they do,” he said. “But [they] don’t have that sustained wind at 40 to 60 miles an hour for hours on end very often.”

At this point, there have been no reported injuries or 911 calls about the storm, according to Unalaska Police Chief Jay King.

The Aleutian Challenger is being inspected after breaking loose from the dock at Unalaska’s spit, according to Ports Director Peggy McLaughlin. (Maggie Nelson/KUCB)

Storms are not unique to the region and Unalaskans are accustomed to strong winds. A record-breaking storm hit the island in August 2020, damaging structures and overturning boats.

King said it appears the damage from this storm is more widespread than last year’s, but it’s still too soon to say for sure.

Thoman, the climate specialist, said weather models predicted the storm well in advance, and locals braced for it. When it comes to low-pressure storms centered so close to Unalaska, he said this was likely a once-in-a-decade event.

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