Wind Shuts Down Valdez; Pipeline Flow Reduced
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) _ Temperatures fell as low as 64 degrees below zero again Monday but Alaska’s record cold eased in some areas as a mass of frigid air from above the Arctic Circle headed toward the Lower 48 states.
Movement of the huge cold air mass that has covered Alaska for about two weeks generated high wind that produced extremely low wind chill factors in southern and south-central Alaska.
And because of the wind, the Coast Guard on Monday closed the continent’s northernmost ice-free port, Valdez Harbor, to oil tanker traffic and said it may remain closed for two days.
The Alaska Division of Emergency Services reported continuing problems in rural Alaska with such things as congealing fuel oil and shortages of fuel and food. Some villages reported power outages and freezing water and sewer pipes.
But the division said it knew of no immediate life-threatening situations.
The Alaska National Guard has been on 24-hour alert to help deal with the cold. 2nd Lt. Mike Haller said Eskimo scouts were helping chop wood near Elim, where there was a critical fuel shortage, and the Guard had loaned fuel to the village of Tuntutuliak in western Alaska.
Haller said four Alaska Air National Guard C-130 aircraft have been on round-the-clock alert to deliver food or fuel to remote areas if needed. Small planes have been grounded by the cold and thick ice fog.
″The story now is not going to be just the cold, but the cold and the wind,″ said Bob Hopkins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.
The coldest temperatures in the state were recorded in interior communities and near the Canadian border. At Tanana, the coldest spot in Alaska early Monday, it was 64 degrees below zero. The school in the town at the confluence of the Yukon and Tanana rivers was closed for the day.
″Sixty-four? It was 76 below here one morning,″ said Tanana Cab Service owner Arvin Kangas. ″It’s not too bad.″
During the weekend, 17 all-time low temperature records across the state fell, the weather service said.
Some of the cold air had pushed 575 miles to the southeast and nipped Juneau. The temperature there was reported at one degree below zero. The cold air was expected to reach the Lower 48 by later in the week, Hopkins said.
At Valdez, Petty Officer Kim Arbaugh of the Marine Safety Office said wind gusts had been clocked at 93 mph, making the Valdez Narrows between the port and Prince William Sound dangerous.
Without tankers picking up oil, Tom Brennan of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. said flow through the trans-Alaska oil pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to the marine terminal at Valdez would be reduced by 65 percent, to 775,000 barrels daily.
″At 775,000 barrels, we have two and a half days’ storage capacity,″ he said.
The temperature at Valdez was a moderate 1 degree below zero, but that combined with the wind to produce wind chill factors to 55 below zero.
Anchorage warmed to one degree below zero by early Monday, but 30-knot wind produced a wind chill effect of 45 degrees below zero. ″That is expected to last until at least tomorrow,″ Hopkins said.
Tanana Commercial Co. co-owner Dale Erickson said the cold has sparked a to be faring well.
″The last time it was like this was 15 or so years ago,″ Sommer said. ″When it gets up to 40 or 50 below it feels like springtime.″
Upriver in Nenana, the temperature early Monday dipped to 62 degrees below zero and schools there also were closed.
The temperature in Bethel warmed to 24 degrees below zero, and Kusko 300 Sled Dog Race officials said that contest would begin at noon. It had been scheduled to begin last Thursday, but was delayed by the cold.