Storm knocks out power

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

Supercharged winds of more than 80 miles per hour blind-sided portions of the Kenai Peninsula Saturday morning, taking out trees, power and phone lines.

Although reserves had to be called in to restore communication and energy needs of many peninsula residents and businesses, some people managed without skipping a beat, adjusting to the weather's obstacles and moving on with their day.

The snow storm that blew across the peninsula took down some power lines and trees but caused no other damages, according to emergency dispatch reports.

Moira Mills, at Kasilof Mercantile, said it was business as usual after that area of the peninsula experienced a power outage that lasted a couple of hours early Saturday morning.

Lack of electricity had the Clam Shell Lodge serving instant coffee by candlelight Saturday morning, according to Debbie Vail.

"I kind of enjoyed it," she said. "It was nice and quiet, but it didn't slow down our business."

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather warning for wind and snow from 5 p.m. Friday evening to about 9 a.m. Saturday. Meteorologist Dan Keirns said the storm blew in from west of Seward, heading north across the peninsula early Saturday morning.

"It came in somewhere between midnight and 2 a.m.," he said. "There were peak winds somewhere around 80 mph on the flats and 90 mph in the mountain areas. The highest I saw was about 71 knots around Portage."

Anchor River Tesoro was able to reopen around 1:34 p.m. Saturday afternoon after power was restored to that community.

"A lot of trees were blown down, but I haven't heard anyone complain about house damage," said Jacque Rich.

Joe Gallagher, of Homer Electric Association, said damage to electrical lines stretched from Sterling to Homer and across Kachemak Bay. He said HEA is on a 24-hour emergency operation and has 16 crews working on restoring power, with more on the way.

"The majority of the crew has been in the field since 4 a.m.," Gallagher said. "We've asked Chugach Electric for assistance. They're going to send six additional linemen down."

He said the crews are addressing downed lines as they find them, assessing the situation and making repairs as needed. But he said not everybody would have relief before nightfall.

"We anticipate that there are people won't be able to get back on line until (Sunday)."

At the Ninilchik General Store, Tonya Frazier said power went out around 4 a.m.

"At home, we've got back-up heat from a propane heater," Frazier said. "But here, I've been walking around in a full-length wool coat. We're hoping to get power back."

Ninilchik's Inlet View Lodge began brewing coffee at 6:30 Saturday morning, thanks to electricity supplied by a back-up generator. And who was out that early?

"People who couldn't stand not knowing what was going on," said Bob Ferguson, referring to Ninilchik residents eager to see what damage had been caused by early morning winds.

Ferguson said trees blown down around his house narrowly missed his satellite dish. "HEA called about 1:30 p.m. and said it would be another hour to an hour and a half before we'd have electricity."

The generator provided enough power for Ferguson to cook breakfast at the lodge, but not enough to run the fans, leaving Ferguson literally in the dark and with a message for the general manager of Homer Electric Association.

"He needs to pay more attention to our co-op than a pipeline to go up and down the peninsula," a laughing Ferguson said, referring to a natural gas pipeline being proposed for the Kenai Peninsula.

Leone Meyers, a registered nurse at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer, said there was no need to switch to the hospital's generator as a result of the storm.

"The only hassle was some of the employees were late to work," she said. "I woke up at five after seven and discovered I was five minutes late for work. We were without power or a phone."

The National Weather Service anticipates more snow and winds today and Christmas Day.

"There are some strong storms coming up (Sunday) and Tuesday," Keirns said.

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