Crews of Homer Electric Asso-ciation linemen are doing everything they can to get Christmas trees lit again in time for Santa's trip to the southern Kenai Peninsula.
In what HEA employees said is one of the most extensive cases of power outages in the past 10 or more years, portions of the southern peninsula remain without electricity 36 hours after a winter storm first began causing damages late Friday night and early Saturday morning.
"I know that there are people around here that have worked (at Homer Electric) for more than a dozen years, and they say this is one of the toughest situations as far as extent of the damage," said Joe Gallagher, HEA spokesperson.
Winds that raged as high as 90 mph knocked hundreds of trees down around the central and southern peninsula, causing power outages from North Kenai to as far south as Homer.
"The hardest hit is Ninilchik south," Gallagher said. "There have been some limited areas in Soldotna and North Kenai. For the most part, we have those people back on line. Because of the situation, most have been sent to the southern peninsula."
HEA has all its linemen working around the clock in addition to 10 others from Chugach Electric who are assisting in the attempt to restore power. In addition, four more linemen are coming from Norcon, another electric company out of Anchorage.
"We continue to be on an emergency response, meaning we are working 24 hours a day with our crew to repair the damage that was caused by a very devastating storm," Gallagher said. "(The damage) was very, very extensive."
According to forecasts by the National Weather Service in Anchorage, in the next few days the wind is supposed to pick up, which might mean trees already weakened by previous winds could come down.
"It looks like it could get a little windy Monday night and Christmas Day," Sam Albanese, a meteorologist for the weather service, said Sunday.
Forecasts point to gusts of 25 to 30 mph near Cook Inlet, increasing to 40 mph up in the mountains.
"Monday night (the wind) will be up in the passes. Christmas Day the winds will die down a bit," Albanese said.
However, HEA was hoping to beat the coming storm and have power back on by Sunday night, Gallagher said.
"We're just working in the weather that we have right now. What the next stretch of weather brings, we don't know."
Gallagher said it was hard to pinpoint exactly how many homes continue to be without power. The locations are scattered and as soon as one line is back on track another goes out.
"Today we are really hoping we would have 90 percent of our lines back. We're still heading toward that goal," he said Sunday afternoon.
Gallagher said it is difficult to know the exact cause of each outage until crews are on site.
"It is hard to overstate the damage the storm did."
Crews will continue to work to restore power. Gallagher urges people to continue their patience.
"We just appreciate the understanding that people have expressed. We know it is very frustrating to go without power."
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