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More than 6,000 affected by power outages in Soldotna and Sterling

Riley Board

High winds related to the storms in Western Alaska caused a power outage in the Soldotna and Sterling areas this weekend, affecting more than 6,000 Homer Electric Association members.

Tanya Lautaret, a spokesperson for HEA, said the first outage reports came in at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, from the Kalifornsky Beach area, where more than 3,000 customers lost power. Around 1 p.m., HEA learned of another outage in Soldotna that was affecting over 2,600 customers.

“Both of those outages were definitely caused by high winds, and the one in the Soldotna area, the cause was a tree on the line,” Lautaret said.

She said there was an additional outage off Scout Lake Road in Sterling that affected 700 customers.

She said the large outages were restored by 2:30 p.m on Saturday. Smaller outages throughout the area were all resolved by 2 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Through the affected areas, many traffic lights lost power as well. Any lights located on highways are maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation and are not on backup generators, so they have to be restored, either manually by DOT crews or by HEA. When traffic lights are out, the intersection reverts to a four-way stop.

Lautaret said restoring traffic lights is a priority for HEA during outages.

“When areas are out with traffic like that, or in a populated area, we do try to get those restored pretty quickly, because we know those affect the majority of the members we have that are trying to travel around,” she said.

Lautaret said it’s important for HEA members to remain prepared and ready for more outages as the winter season approaches.

Adam Przepiora, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Anchorage, said wind in Soldotna on Saturday reached gusts of 33 miles per hour, and that the wind in the western Kenai Peninsula area was a weather front associated with the large, destructive storms in Western Alaska. However, he said, the size of the front that reached the Kenai-Soldotna area this weekend wasn’t especially strong, even though it was related to those stronger storms.

The strongest fall storm to hit Alaska in 50 years made landfall on Friday night, and impacted more than 1,000 miles of Alaska’s west coast over the weekend. It caused major flooding and destruction in communities on the Bering Strait. The Alaska National Guard is activating all guardsmen in the western region of the state to help with debris removal and damage assessment.

You can find the original story here.

Riley Board is a Report For America corps member covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula for KDLL. A recent graduate of Middlebury College, where she studied linguistics, English literature and German, Board was editor-in-chief of The Middlebury Campus, the student newspaper, and completed work as a Kellogg Fellow, doing independent linguistics research. She has interned at the Burlington Free Press, covering the early days of the pandemic’s effects on Vermont communities, and at Smithsonian Institution’s Folklife, where she wrote about culture and folklife in Washington, D.C. and beyond. Board hails from Sarasota, Florida.
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