Unforeseen natural occurrences are part of the fabric of life in Alaska, but after nearly of week without power, some residents of the southern Kenai Peninsula might be hard pressed to think they are overprepared for anything Mother Nature might throw their way.
Despite 'round-the-clock efforts costing Homer Electric Association several hundred thousand dollars, 35 HEA linemen remain unable to restore power to many families on the southern peninsula. HEA got 50 more homes on line Thursday night, but today is the sixth day without lights, heat and water for approximately 100 other families on North Fork Road and in other outlying areas.
That is a substantial decrease from the more than 500 homes which lost power at the height of the outages Saturday, when everything was out on North Fork as well as in parts of the northern peninsula.
In addition to those living on North Fork, where HEA has focused its crews and is now in the process of working south along its access line hooking up individual homes, homeowners in Greiner subdivision outside of Homer, Hutler Road at the end of East End Road, also in Homer, and in Tutka Bay continue to be without power.
Wood-burning and kerosene stoves have become coveted items in many households, and those that have neither item have sought the help of friends or the American Red Cross.
After putting up 31 people in two Homer hotels, the Red Cross opened a shelter at noon Thursday at Homer Middle School.
"They were told they were to be out of the hotel by 11 a.m. That was why it was important for the shelter to be up and running by noon," said Carla Stanley, a volunteer for the Red Cross in Homer. "We have food that is being prepared by the Bay View Baptist Church. They can just show up and we will be here."
One family of nine visited the shelter for lunch Thursday but left to check on their home. Except for the one family, things were relatively quiet for the volunteer staff, said Stanley. She was unsure Thursday afternoon whether any families would use the shelter's facilities overnight.
"They possibly could be back. When they have the choice between staying on a cot in the middle school -- sometimes people find other options."
If no one came by nine or 10 Thursday night, Stanley said, she couldn't see the shelter remaining open through the night. But it will be open during the day until power is restored.
"Once we know that everybody has their power back, we will be shut down," she said.
According to HEA spokesperson Joe Gallagher, everyone is expected to have their power restored by no later than tonight.
"The forecast to the North Fork area is that we hope to have it online by the end of Friday," he said Thursday afternoon.
The only thing keeping residents from their power would be unexpected problems in repairing the damage that is out there, he said.
"It is hard to predict what some of this might take as far as manpower and time. We are really counting on and hoping that the weather will hold out until we get everyone on line."
The National Weather Service forecasts that Gallagher may just get his wish. The storm that has been hurling energy in the form of winds and other inclement weather at the southern peninsula may not have moved on, but it's going to leave HEA crews alone for a few days at least.
"It is well done influencing us, but it isn't going anywhere. All the energy is now hitting the Pacific Northwest," said weather service meteorologist Dan Keirns. "All it is going to be producing here is clouds."
Still, predictions see snow and rain combined with winds of no more than 40 mph returning to the peninsula by Saturday.
However, residents may be better prepared for the storm than the one that hit last weekend. Paul Miller, owner of Soldotna Trustworthy Hardware, reported an increase in several winter weather staples over the past week.
Wednesday alone, the store sold 400 bags of sand and sold out of its stock of ice cleats. In addition, sales for winter gloves have skyrocketed. A normal year sees 10,000 pairs of gloves purchased. But with half of the winter still ahead, Trustworthy has already doubled its average by selling 20,000 pairs.
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