Wind, rain hamper effort to restore power to Homer homes

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2001

HOMER (AP) -- Strong winds and rain on Christmas complicated the task of restoring power to homes left without electricity by a winter snowstorm last week.

''It's a real rotten day,'' said Joe Gallagher, spokesman for the Homer Electric Association, of the weather.

The temperature reached 39 degrees but and more than a half-inch of rain fell by early afternoon and winds gusted to 40 mph, making for miserable working conditions.

''It was a tough situation without the bad weather today,'' Gallagher said.

Local utility workers and crews brought in to assist them restored power to about 200 more homes as of 3 p.m. Tuesday. But another 300 homes remained without power from the storm Friday that hit the area with snow and wind up to 90 mph.

Crews focused Tuesday on customers along North Fork Road between Homer and Anchor Point.

''That's the hardest-hit area,'' Gallagher said.

By Tuesday night, they hoped to restore power to the Russian Old Believer village of Nikolaevsk.

The winds that ripped through the area last week pushed over hundreds of trees made brittle and killed by infestations of spruce bark beetles. Gallagher said much of the work since Friday has involved chain saws to clear utility corridors of deadfalls.

''It's just a lot of manual labor,'' Gallagher said.

He expects that some homes will be without power until Thursday or Friday.

The utility worked with the Red Cross to put up 13 families in Homer hotel rooms because of the outage. Some people moved in with friends but many simply fired up wood stoves and generators, drained their home's pipes and lighted candles.

The utility has spent $2 million over the past two years clearing dead trees away from main power lines, Gallagher said. The top priorities have been Homer's East End Road, where the woods were heavily infested by beetles, and along the Sterling Highway north to Clam Gulch.

The North Fork Road area was not scheduled for clearing until early next year, Gallagher said. Some government officials have considered fire the primary threat posed by the dead trees.

''This storm would have been a lot worse had we not been doing the tree removal during the past two years, especially out East Road,'' he said.

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