Thousands of Alaska’s Trees Lost After Trio of Fall Storms

Anchorage, AK (September 2012) – September proved a harrowing month for Alaskans—and for trees. It started with an early September wind storm that produced gusts topping 114 MPH, a record for the region. The storm was widespread, covering hundreds of miles and proving the loss of thousands of trees. The high winds caused trees and branches to break and fall, landing on power lines, cars, yards, and homes. This was followed by a series of rain storms over the next few weeks that brought severe flooding to the area, putting many roads and homes under water. Instead of fall plantings, all efforts have turned to removing and cutting up downed trees.

The Department of Transportation estimated that 1,000 trees blew down along the Alaska highway on the 42-mile stretch of road between the Johnson River and Delta Junction. That equates to an average of about 25 trees per mile. The DOT had to cut up and push several trees out of the roadway to make the road passable.

In the Anchorage area, the wind tore down hundreds of trees, breaking and falling all over the city, landing on power lines, cars, yards, and homes. This left many homeowners across the city lamenting the loss of their trees. Forestry officials issued permits to cut up blown down wood on state land. The permits cost $10 per cord with a three-cord minimum, and many took advantage of the opportunity to recover wood from downed trees.

But storms brought more than just wind. Relentless rains hit the Prince William Sound area. Some spots on the western shores received nearly 7 inches of rain in 24 hours, swelling rivers as well. Flooding caused problems over a wide swath of Alaska, from Talkeetna, near the base of Mount McKinley, to the port town of Seward, 175 miles to the south. Many roads were closed or washed out and landslides were reported following heavy rains. The Talkeetna River was 4 feet above flood level and within a foot of its record stage of 17.4 feet. City officials said a levy west of town was breached in two or three places.

Many fall tree plantings are unlikely as early October brought up to 7 inches of snow in the upper elevations, nearly a month early.

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