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Mudslide, weather trigger power outages

Posted: November 1, 2011 - 11:02pm
A power pole along Thane Road burns just after noon on Tuesday after a small slide caused a tree to cross the lines. Power went out in Douglas and downtown Juneau.  Provided by Staci Augustus
Provided by Staci Augustus
A power pole along Thane Road burns just after noon on Tuesday after a small slide caused a tree to cross the lines. Power went out in Douglas and downtown Juneau.

Thousands of people lost power early Tuesday afternoon and again Tuesday night. An area-wide outage shortly after 8:30 p.m. sent AEL&P crews scrambling and jammed the after-hours phone line. Power was restored first to the valley and Lemon Creek area, and by about 9:40 p.m. lights were on again in Salmon Creek, downtown and Douglas homes and businesses.

The first outage began when a minor mudslide in the avalanche zone off Thane Road caused a tree to fall and strike a transmission line. A second incident shortly thereafter then caused another outage that lasted more than half an hour.

The downed Alder tree situated on the hillside on the coastal side of the road fell towards the water and struck a utility pole that carries about 69,000 volts of electricity. It caught fire, but the rain quickly doused the flames, Juneau Police Officer Joe Bankowski said.

“It looks like this mudslide was about 50 feet wide,” Bankowski said on scene. “The hillside gave way and caused a tree to strike the (utility pole.)”

Fire crews responded to the scene around 12:30 p.m., but were not needed.

The daytime power outages affected the west Juneau substation and capital substation, an AEL&P spokesperson said. Power was restored by the AEL&P in about 20 minutes.

Department of Transportation Station Foreman Erling Olsen said at the scene that the road would not need to be closed since the mudslide occurred on a hillside off an extended shoulder.

“This is Mother Nature at work,” he said, adding, “But this is minor.”

As AEL&P crews worked to restore power to Douglas, a second tree branch touched the a line near Glacier Avenue and Egan Drive at approximately 1:37 p.m. The branch cut power to the Second Street substation, which affects downtown Juneau, and the Salmon Creek substation serving the Bartlett Hospital area.

All power was restored by 2:10 p.m.

A total of about 5,000 customers were affected by that outage.

Over the past few months AEL&P has cut and trimmed trees to prepare for winter weather, Debbie Ferreira said. She said the utility had crews ready to respond quickly to outages.

AEL&P did not have to run its diesel generators.

“We have a sufficient amount of redundancy in our lines through planning, even if the problem isn’t solved yet we can reroute power,” Ferreira said.

No details were available at press time about the cause of the evening outage.

• Editor's note: This article has been changed to correct the name of AEL&P spokeswoman Debbie Ferreira.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

• Contact reporter Russel Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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