A lightning storm passes through the Ketchikan area July 22 (photo by Pauline Bickford, used with permission).

A lightning strike to the Swan-Tyee Lake intertie took out power throughout the Ketchikan area Monday night. Ketchikan Public Utilities Director Andy Donato says the lightning storm moved quickly from south of Ketchikan towards Wrangell.     

“There’s a transmission like that links Swan Lake with Tyee and we were receiving energy through that transmission line at the time that this occurred. A lightning strike opened that line up. It basically dumped the energy that was being transmitted and that forced the town to go black.”

The Swan – Tyee Lake intertie, owned by the Southeast Alaska Power Agency, provides electricity to Ketchikan and Wrangell. Donato say the outage occurred at 7:37 p.m. Monday affecting all 7,800 customers. He says KPU turned on larger backup diesel generators shortly afterwards and began restoring power area by area.

“We did Tongass Avenue off of B.C. Substation within 15 minutes. And then little by little closed the other ones in. And then, of course, the last one was Point Higgins South, and we did that within 38 minutes of the outage.”

As power from the intertie was restored, Donato says KPU transitioned back to a combination of hydro and diesel.  Because of the ongoing drought in Southeast, lake levels remain low and supplemental diesel is necessary.