Windy, stormy weather blamed for power outages

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Windy, stormy weather is being blamed for three power outages in as many days, including one Tuesday that left 15,000 customers without electricity, said a spokeswoman for Municipal Light & Power.

The latest power outage occurred early Tuesday afternoon when a tree probably blew into a power line near the Alaska Native Heritage Center, said spokeswoman Crystal Enkvist. About 15,000 customers were left without power for about 20 minutes.

All customers were back on line Tuesday in the utility's 20-square-mile service area, she said.

The problems began Sunday during a downpour when the utility suspects lightning struck a transformer or a transmission line, causing all of its 29,000 customers to lose power. Some residents in east Anchorage were without power for more than six hours.

The last time the utility experienced a similar occurrence was in December 1977, Enkvist said. A lightning strike is suspected because of the way the switches reacted, opening and closing in a random manner. Normally, switches will react to problems by rerouting electricity along other lines to prevent disruptions in service.

Monday's power outage, caused by wind knocking a tree into a power line, also left about 15,000 customers without electricity for about an hour.

Three tree-trimming crews were out Tuesday to cut back limbs to keep similar power outages from occurring, Enkvist said. Winds of up to 35 mph were expected to continue in the Anchorage area before tapering off Wednesday.

While the system apparently was not permanently harmed on Sunday, utility crews are still trying to pinpoint exactly what happened.

''We are continuing to do a lot of diagnostic tests within our system,'' Enkvist said.

During Monday's outage, the Anchorage Police Department dispatch and communication center lost its main microwave radio transmission network and immediately switched to a backup system. Officers doubled up in patrol cars and communicated with the dispatch center via a walkie-talkie system.

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