Alaska Electric Light and Power Company Lemon Creek operations center in Juneau is pictured in 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Alaska Electric Light and Power Company Lemon Creek operations center in Juneau is pictured in 2017. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Damaged insulator knocks out power to large swaths of Juneau

November has been a ‘rough patch of outages’.

A broken component knocked out power to large parts of Juneau Wednesday morning, said an Alaska Electric Light & Power spokesperson.

“We had an insulator break in the Lemon Creek area,” said AEL&P vice president of community affairs Debbie Driscoll. “When an insulator breaks, the line comes in contact with something it shouldn’t, and it causes a fault. That causes a lot of things to trip open.”

Power was lost in Lemon Creek, Salmon Creek, the Mendenhall Valley and Out the Road, Driscoll said. Salmon Creek was the last restored, back online by early afternoon. Initial difficulty was in locating the problem, Driscoll said. Something like a downed tree on a line is easier to spot than internal problems.

“This was something that was not as obvious,” Driscoll said. “We thought it could be a bird.”

In some cases, tripped breakers at power destinations further complicated things for people, Driscoll said.

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“If your neighbors have power and you don’t, it’s a good idea to check the breaker. It’s always a good idea to check on the main breaker.

AEL&P recognizes that this can be a rocky time of year, as early snow and falling temperatures may drop trees that won’t survive winter or cause other problems, Driscoll said.

“We’re always at the ready. We’re always prepared in this kind of weather. We know at any moment something could happen,” Driscoll said. “We try to post outage updates to social media within a couple of minutes. We always encourage people to check there first.”

A rough start to the winter

An early ice storm has caused an abnormal number of outages this winter, Driscoll said.

“We’ve had an unusual amount of outages for us. The snow, the wind, this broken insulator — we’ve had a rough patch of outages,” Driscoll said. “That ice storm really did a number. A lot of trees came down, trees that were not in our right of way, which are trees that we can not manage or trim. You can’t predict those, you can’t manage those. You just have to be prepared to get the power back on as quickly as possible.”

That’s been unusual, as Southeast Alaska doesn’t usually lend itself to that particular kind of winter storm.

“This year, our outages have been higher the last two years. We’ve been having what we term areawide outages,” Driscoll said. “You don’t see ice storms as often in Juneau as the East Coast or down south.”

Vigilance from engineering watchstanders and hard work from the crews will get Juneau through the winter, Driscoll said. Driscoll recommended keeping your phone charged, having blankets and flashlights available and checking AEL&P’s social media if there’s an outage. The company strives to announce if it knows there’s an outage so people don’t jam the phone lines calling about a known issue, Driscoll said.

“There’s always a duty engineer that responds first and foremost. There’s a duty engineer 24/7. They determine how many crews need to be called out,” Driscoll said. “It’s definitely an all hands on deck kind of company. They take our jobs seriously.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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