Ketchikan and POW shaken up by wild weather

This Alaska Department of Public Safety photo shows a slide blocking a road on Prince of Wales Island.

This Alaska Department of Public Safety photo shows a slide blocking a road on Prince of Wales Island.

Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island experienced some wild weather on Tuesday, with heavy rain propelled by strong winds.

In Ketchikan, a landslide sent trees crashing into power lines in the Ward Cove area, triggering a system-wide power outage at around 9:45 a.m. Here’s KPU Electric Division Manager Andy Donato.

“Looks like it took out two of the top lines, which is the Swan-Bailey 115 kv line,” he said. “That in itself would probably be enough to cause the outage that we saw. The entire KPU network went down.”

KPU isolated sections of the grid and soon restored power to customers south of the Bailey Power Plant, but those north of that facility remained without power until late afternoon.

Donato says it’s challenging for line crews to work in this kind of weather.

“If you’ve seen these bucket trucks at the top of these poles, waving in the wind, and the wind is strong. It’s nasty conditions,” he said. “There’s no doubt these linemen are earning their pay today.”

No flooding problems were reported in city limits, but crews were keeping an eye on drains, according to the city Public Works Department.

On POW, though, there was flooding that led to landslides and blocked roads.

One of those slides blocked all traffic on the Klawock-Hollis Highway, and another cut off the community of Coffman Cove. State Troopers reported that a portion of Whale Pass Road also was washed out.

Because of the Klawock-Hollis Highway slide, the Inter-Island Ferry Authority had to hold Tuesday’s ferry run from Ketchikan to Prince of Wales Island.

IFA General Manager Dennis Watson says it was unclear how bad the slide was, or whether the road was damaged or just covered with mud and debris.

“Our terminal agent in Hollis drove out on site and called me and she said it’s really bad,” he said. “I don’t know if she could even tell if the road was washed out. She just said there was a tremendous amount of mud across it. And apparently one house below that was severely damaged, from what I understand.”

Watson says the wind was blowing a steady 35 to 40 earlier Tuesday morning on POW, and things picked up even more.

“And then around 11 it just really cranked up,” he said. “It had to have been blowing a steady 50 at least, gusting way higher. It was really bad.”

Watson says power to Hollis also was cut off, and Craig was without electricity for about 45 minutes. A phone call seeking information from Alaska Power and Telephone, the power provider on POW, was not returned by deadline.

The wind started dying down Tuesday afternoon, but flood warnings from the National Weather Service remained in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday for Ketchikan and Prince of Wales.

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