Power on for most Kaktovik homes

In the news

Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2005

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Electricity was restored Wednesday to most homes in Kaktovik after the Alaska Air National Guard delivered technicians and equipment to the village, thrown into a deep freeze four days ago when it lost power in a blizzard.

A helicopter with two electrical linemen on board was able to land briefly Tuesday. They restored power to about three-quarters of the village, said Dennis O. Packer, chief administrative officer for the North Slope Borough.

While the cause of the power outage is not known, it may have been the result of power lines slapping together and arcing during the severe storm, he said.

The storm Sunday plunged temperatures to 20 degrees below zero with wind chill of minus 60 and knocking out electricity for most of the village's 300 residents.

The village on the Beaufort Sea received more relief Wednesday when a two Alaska Air National Guard cargo planes landed.

Guard spokeswoman Kalei Brooks said the first cargo plane dropped off generators, heaters and other equipment.

North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmaogak said 10 borough employees also were on board the first flight, including plumbers, mechanics, health aides and more electrical linemen.

Ten more workers were on a second flight that also carried food, water and supplies such as diapers and infant formula, Ahmaogak said.

A third flight carrying propane and other hazardous materials was due in Wednesday night, Ahmaogak said.

Families with children and elders remain in a village heavy equipment maintenance building. A commercial store usually is available to provide supplies.

''Because their power was frozen up, we're providing that for the moment,'' Ahmaogak said.

A single-lane road had been plowed the 2 to 3 miles from the airport to the village. Snow drifts on the runway had prevented earlier emergency landings. Brooks said winds had died down and a crew was able to clear the runway and erect portable runway lighting.

''The permanent runway lighting still has no power,'' she said. ''The runway is still closed to commercial flight.''

Another flight was tentatively scheduled for Thursday morning.

Ahmaogak said the fuel distribution system has been restored and the priority will be to fill up all the standby generators and tanks at public facilities: the health clinic, the municipal building, fire stations.

School teacher Adam Hausman said the house that he was staying in with five other people still had no power Wednesday. It was about 30 degrees inside the house, which was being warmed a little with a gas stove, he said.

For days, he and his housemates had tried to keep warm by telling stories and jokes, said Hausman, 34, who moved to Kaktovik from Bend, Ore., in the fall to teach English. It was too cold to do anything else, he said, even read.

''We are still stuck without power and heat. I guess it is day four,'' he said. ''We just have been kind of cuddled up in two rooms. It has been too cold, your hands, you can't even turn the pages.''

Hausman said he wasn't sure he would sign up for another year in Kaktovik.

''I will have to ponder that,'' he said. ''This is not a good time to ask me.''

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