Weather downburst fells trees, disrupts power along Badger Road

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 4:45 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Badger Road area of North Pole was struck with a weather event on Tuesday, August 3, causing power outages and a number of fallen trees.

The evening saw a thunderstorm hit North Pole and the Badger Road area, which caused what is called a ‘downburst’.

According to Jonathan Chriest, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service Fairbanks, “It’s a product of the thunderstorm where cold air from aloft, from higher up in the atmosphere, is dragged down to the surface by rain.”

Chriest explained further that this event was due to unique weather conditions in the area at the time. “We had record high temperatures of near 90 degrees at the surface; but aloft, up at 7000 feet, it was only 47 degrees. So as that rain comes down from those clouds, it’s dragging that cold air to the surface, and when it hits the surface, it spreads out, and it creates strong, straight line winds.”

Those winds were powerful enough to knock down an estimated 100 trees. The downbust also caused over 1500 power outages. Chriest continued, “We’re told that the area is still being worked on. They’re still working on clearing those trees, and then it was a labor-intensive cleanup for the GVEA (Golden Valley Electric Association) linemen, unfortunately, since it did cause quite a bit of damage.”

Downbursts have been recorded by the National Weather Service Fairbanks before, according to Chriest. “We’ve seen other downburst events for sure, but this is kind of the first one that’s hit, in my memory at least, that’s hit in a very populated area where there’s been lots of reports of impacts and reports of damage.”

But despite the high winds, Chriest says the event would not be classified as a tornado. “Tornados require rotation. With this event, we were pretty confident, we’re very confident that there was no rotation in the area. We simply do not have an environment favorable for that.”

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