Wind storm sends 100-foot boat adrift and marina building to the ground

Gusts hit at near 100 mph

A wind storm with gusts hitting nearly 100 miles an hour beat down on Cordova on Oct. 23, setting the anchored Polar Bear adrift, damaging structures and trees, and sending debris flying everywhere.

In the height of it all, the Polar Bear, a roughly 100-foot long retired fish processor anchored outside of the breakwater broke loose and drifted quickly down Orca Inlet, southwest of town, and to the horizon before becoming invisible due to heavy rain and wind.

During this latest storm, the harbormaster’s office recorded a wind gust reaching 92 mph from a weather station near the breakwater. The sustained winds during the day on Oct. 23 were recorded in the mid-30s to 40s. The gusts began around 9 a.m. and strengthened throughout the afternoon.

A reading at 4 p.m. showed the storm easing up with sustained winds at 28 mph and a gust of 62 mph. Weather conditions prompted the Prince William Sound Science Center to cancel their Tuesday Night Talk program.

The Polar Bear, owned by Mike Smith, had been anchored near the harbor for more than four years. During the evening of Oct. 23 the Polar Bear was seen heading north towards town and as of 11 a.m. on Oct. 24, it was last seen beached on Hawkins Island.

At the marina, building D, a boat storage unit owned by the Native Village of Eyak, collapsed, and trees in the Lake Avenue, Lefevre Street, and 5-Mile Loop area succumbed to the storm.

Wendy Ranney, co-owner of Orca Adventure Lodge, took to Facebook to warn people not to travel down Orca Road until the wind subsided.

“It can be very dangerous, we do not let our dogs out or our kids walk around until after it is done blowing,” Ranney said.

She also noted seeing impressive water spouts along the inlet as the storm surge pushed the tide up.

“We have had some sheds blow over and get moved to different locations, lots of flying tin and our sauna took a major hit to the roof … but we have also seen worse, so we are just waiting it out,” Ranney said.

A building in the Prince William Marina, mile 1.7 Whitshed Road, collapses from a strong wind gust during the wind storm in Cordova on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018. (Video by David Saiget/for The Cordova Times)