Strong winds whipped across Ketchikan Thursday evening and Friday morning. As KRBD’s Eric Stone reports, a strong morning gust snapped power lines and severed Ketchikan’s connection to the Swan Lake hydropower reservoir.
Andy Donato is the head of Ketchikan Public Utilities’ electric division.
“So actually, the fun started for us around 11 o’clock last night,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
He says the night started off with a caller reporting some arcing and sparking at the city’s Thomas Basin harbor Thursday evening.
A few hours later, a weather station at Salmon Landing near Ketchikan’s cruise ship berths clocked a 69-mile-per-hour gust shortly after 5 a.m.
“Around 7:00 (a.m.), we started getting calls and then at 7:52 — mark that time — at 7:52, some wave of wind went across the island from south to north,” he said.
At that same time, the Salmon Landing station recorded a nearly 60-mile-per-hour gust.
Donato says that’s when trees started falling — most notably in the Ward Cove area. Trees knocked out Ketchikan’s connection to the Southeast Alaska Power Agency — or SEAPA’s — Swan Lake hydropower reservoir.
“Some trees in that area blew into the lines, knocked the lines down — big trees. And the weight of those trees hitting the lines caused them to snap across four pole spans and break them, and those lines came down on a bunch of cars,” he said.
That trapped employees of an engineering firm inside their building. Donato says crews quickly cleared the area and allowed the trapped employees to escape.
Donato says no one was hurt, and there wasn’t major damage aside from the utility poles and wires. But with no connection to the community’s largest hydroelectric dam, a diesel generator at KPU’s Bailey Powerhouse spun up.
“We get roughly 50% of our power from SEAPA, and it comes down that line. And so with that line being out of service, we have to burn diesel to augment that energy,” Donato said.
Donato estimated Friday that repairs would take roughly two days, depending on whether parts were available.
He says there weren’t any system-wide outages from the storm. But he says scattered areas saw brief outages, including the Newtown area and homes near D-1 Loop Road.
KRBD’s Maria Dudzak contributed reporting.