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Wind keeps HEA crews busy

Storm knocks out electricity to 11,000 Kenai Peninsula homes

Posted: Wednesday, November 15, 2006

About 500 customers remained without electricity Tuesday after high winds caused power outages across the Kenai Peninsula on Monday.

“At one time we had 11,000 people without power,” said Homer Electric Association spokesperson Joe Gallagher on Tuesday.

Between 7 and 10 p.m. Monday, HEA circuits serving Sterling, Kalifornsky Beach and Kasilof all went out at the same time. Each circuit serves about 2,500 customers, Gallagher said.

“Our guys have been in the field nonstop since yesterday,” he said, adding the electricity provider hoped to have power restored to everyone by the end of the day.

The National Weather Service Anchorage forecast office, however, was again predicting wind gusts as high as 50 mph near Cook Inlet on Tuesday night.

“Strong winds are expected near the inlet with temperatures between 5 below and 5 above,” said John Stepetin, weather service specialist in the National Weather Service Anchorage forecast office.

He said winds would be out of the north at 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 50. The windchill was predicted to be between 10 and 25 below zero north of Clam Gulch.

Today’s predicted high is between 5 and 15 above with north winds between 15 and 30 mph. Windchill tonight is expected to be between 15 and 30 below.

On Monday evening, an HEA circuit serving approximately 3,000 Sterling residents went down about 7:15 p.m., according to Gallagher, and a short time later, residents in Kasilof and along Kalifornsky Beach Road lost electricity.

Power was restored before 10 p.m., but went out again in Sterling shortly after 1 a.m. and remained out until 3:30 a.m.

“Today we’re responding to several dozen isolated outages serving two to three customers,” Gallagher said.

All outages were the result of “trees bumping into our equipment,” he said.

“It’s not easy to get power back because first you have to find the problem in the dark, then you have to get the tree off the line and get the line back up on the pole,” he said.

No HEA employees were injured while restoring power.

At the southern end of the HEA service area, winds damaged the main transmission line in Seldovia at about 11 p.m. Monday, forcing HEA to put its standby generator on line to provide electricity to people in Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek.

Gallagher said there is not much HEA can do to prevent outages during wind storms like the one that struck Monday night, but he said HEA was organizing its crew structure Tuesday to assure proper response if winds picked up Tuesday night.

“Homer Electric has been involved in an accelerated right of way clearing program the past year and a half,” he said. “It would have been much worse had we not embarked on that project.”

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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