A storm with hurricane-force winds that swept through the lower Kenai Peninsula last week knocked out power from Nanwalek to Ohlson Mountain, caused an ice jam on the Anchor River, toppled trees and even blew crab pots into the Homer Harbor.
On Monday, Homer Electric Association crews still have not been able to make repairs to a downed power line between Tutka Bay and Jakolof Bay that serves Seldovia and Port Graham. Those villages have been getting power from a local generation plant in Seldovia.
An ice jam on the Anchor River just above the bridge across the Old Sterling Highway flooded the road on either side. That jam broke over the weekend, but then caused flooding on the Anchor River Road to the beach. As of noon Monday, flooding had abated and the weather service canceled its advisory. However the weather service noted the flooded campgrounds will take time to dry out.
Last Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued an alert warning of east to southeast winds 50 to 60 mph, with gusts up to 75 mph, with the worst winds expected after midnight Dec. 30. That storm rattled roofs and in one case blew a roof off a trailer on East End Road.
Storms kept HEA crews hopping from Christmas through the New Year’s weekend.
“Homer Electric crews have been very busy over the holidays in efforts to make repairs to downed power lines and restore electric power amidst heavy snow, and more recently, brutal wind storms,” wrote HEA spokesperson Melissa Carlin in an email.
During last week’s storm, HEA responded to outages in the Jakolof Bay, Seldovia, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Ohlson Mountain, Diamond Ridge areas. The outages affected at least 700 customers. Carlin said people in Seldovia reported winds up to 100 mph.
The weather service also issued an advisory on the morning of Dec. 30 of an ice jam causing flooding on the Old Sterling Highway by the bridge. Residents reported high water on either side of the bridge. On Saturday night the Old Sterling Highway still had flooding, but then the ice jam broke through. That cleared the highway but then flooded the Anchor River Road. Alaska State Trooper Tyler Stuart said he was on patrol on Saturday night and outside his vehicle talking to a motorist.
“I had about 2 inches of water up to my boots and a minute later it was up to my knees,” he said. “It’s something that can happen quickly.”
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities crews cleared ice from the Anchor River Road. Alaska State Parks campgrounds along the road were flooded and might take awhile to dry out, the weather service said.
A series of storms this fall exposed a lot of weaknesses at the Homer Harbor, so that when last week’s storm came, the effect was lessened, said assistant harbormaster Matt Clarke. An earlier storm blew down a high-mast light at the harbor near the Deep Water Dock in November. Last week’s high winds blew a utility trailer loaded with crab pots across Fish Dock Road and down an embankment toward the harbor, Clarke said.
“It caught sail and pushed it down the street and down the embankment,” he said.
The storm also knocked down several street light posts on the road from the Homer Spit Road to the Land’s End Lodgings condominiums.
Harbor officers have spent much of the week patrolling the harbor and tightening up bow and stern lines. Officers also patrolled the harbor in a skiff with a generator and sump pump removing water from boats.
“We’ve spent quite a bit of time taking precautionary measures,” Clarke said.
Mariners should check their boats periodically, he said.
One bonus with warm temperatures has been a lack of snow. Harbor officers can focus on checking boats rather than clearing snow.
The storm also blew a lot of debris into the harbor, including large logs. Harbor crews have towed bigger logs out of the harbor and into a burn pile by the Pier One Theatre. People are welcome to use that for firewood, Clarke said.
By Monday the storm had laid down, with winds dropping to 30-35 mph. A general weather pattern of a warm air mass over Alaska will continue. A ridge in western Canada and eastern Alaska traps warm air to the west so that low-pressure systems coming in from the Pacific Ocean hit the high-pressure ridge and are pushed north. That has kept low-pressure systems from pushing past that ridge.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.