High wind blows freight containers into Gastineau Channel

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) -- Strong wind lifted four 10,000-pound freight containers off a docked barge, breaking chains that held them down, and dumped them in Gastineau Channel on Wednesday.

The containers eventually beached on Douglas Island. No one was injured and no boats were damaged.

Tom Saytre, manager of Northland Services, said the containers, measuring 40 feet by 8 feet, were stacked on the stern of a Northland barge.

Saytre said his crew was loading empty containers onto the barge to prepare for a trip to Seattle. Four stacked containers were chained to the barge, but a gust caught the stack, broke the locks on chains holding it in place, and sent it flying.

''We've had containers blow over in the yard before, but we've never had one end up in the bay,'' Saytre said. ''Even though they weigh 10,000 pounds, they have so much surface area that you get one big gust of wind and they just go over.''

The crew stood by helplessly and watched the containers float across Gastineau Channel.

According to the National Weather Service, the wind peaked at 64 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph.

After the containers beached on Douglas, they were secured to rocks and logs with rope, Saytre said.

It is too soon to determine the amount of damage to the containers, Saytre said. It may not be much because they were riding high on the water, he said.

''We are still trying to devise a way to retrieve them,'' Saytre said. ''We can't retrieve them until the wind dies down. It just wouldn't be safe or practical.''

Pete Rahe, a technician with the National Weather Service in Juneau, said winds should die down gradually over the weekend.

Saytre said Northland may look at new ways to secure containers to the barge.

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