Storm closes Fairbanks schools, knocks out power

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — An early winter storm that included high winds, snow and freezing rain has left thousands without power in the Fairbanks area on Thursday.

Fairbanks schools closed Thursday for a second day because of the conditions, and slick roads played a role in the decision for Fairbanks North Star Borough school officials. Alaska Airlines was forced to cancel five flights on Wednesday, and about 14,000 Golden Valley Electric customers were without power at one time, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://is.gd/MuqU4t ).

Both Fairbanks police and the Alaska State Troopers said beyond calls about downed trees, no major issues have arisen. Dispatchers with the police department say there have been no reports of serious injuries because of the storm.

Power outages were reported across a wide swath, from Nenana to Salcha, but nine two-man crews were working to restore power.

About 8,000 customers were still without power as of 6:20 a.m., said utility spokeswoman Cassandra Cerny. Some customers might not have power back for hours.

“We still have a significant number of members out of service,” a recorded message from the utility said Thursday morning. “It looks like this is going to be extended for a while, so just be patient with us.”

About 4 inches of snow fell at the Fairbanks International Airport along with less than an inch of liquid, some of it freezing rain, said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Brader.

“We still have strong winds, gusts up to 40 mph,” Brader said Thursday morning, when the temperature was 37 degrees.

Winds started to pick up about 10 p.m. Wednesday, with the highest recorded gust of 55 mph coming overnight. Just after midnight, airport officials sent an email to small plane owners urging them to make sure their planes were tied down and covers secured.

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan says in an email to The Associated Press that there were no flight cancellations Thursday.

A cold front is expected to come in later Thursday, with temperatures dropping to minus 5 degrees. Several more inches of snow are expected.

Brader said the seven-day forecast shows a return to normal conditions for Fairbanks, with highs about 10 and lows of zero.

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