Damage being assessed as power is restored for most Mat-Su residents

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 10:47 AM AKST|Updated: Jan. 6, 2022 at 8:46 PM AKST
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - Power has been mostly restored for Matanuska-Susitna Borough residents following an historic, days-long windstorm that knocked many offline for days, but another wind event is on the horizon.

According to an online outage map provided by the Matanuska Electric Association, less than 1% of the company’s customers were still without power as of 10 a.m. Thursday, with about half those homes located in the Lazy Mountain area.

However, MEA spokesperson Jennifer Castro told Alaska’s News Source on Thursday that the true number is about 100 members. A post on the company’s Facebook page explained that crews have rerouted power from a different circuit “on a few outage locations so they are showing some meters as off but they are actually on.”

“Our big priority today is going and removing any remaining trees on the lines and any trees that are about to fall on the lines and getting these last 100 members back on today,” Castro said.

Castro also said MEA will have crews on standby Thursday in anticipation of another wind event that is expected to hit the Mat-Su on Friday and last through Saturday. According to the National Weather Service, wind gusts of up to 55 mph could be seen Friday night.

The American Red Cross is also hosting one shelter for those still in need of assistance due to the subzero temperatures, a day after closing down its Palmer shelter at the Palmer Junior Middle School. Currently, the only shelter available is at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, where a Red Cross spokesperson said 11 families are now being housed.

The Red Cross said the shelter will continue to operate until the borough decides it is no longer needed, and added that Palmer residents who are unable to reach the Wasilla shelter can call the borough’s emergency hotline at 907-861-7900.

The courthouse in Palmer is closed to the public after a sprinkler line burst and dumped around 300 gallons of water on Monday, according to Alaska Court System Facilities Director Anna Harrison. The courthouse will remain closed until at least Jan. 14 as they continue to dry out the building after multiple pipes burst throughout the week.

“Monday evening we found some additional water lines that broke,” Harrison said. “By the end of Tuesday, we had discovered seven lines had actually burst and had dumped water throughout various areas of our courthouse, which has led to significant amounts of water in the building.”

An historic windstorm caused three pipes to burst, flooding the Palmer Courthouse and closing...
An historic windstorm caused three pipes to burst, flooding the Palmer Courthouse and closing the facility until at least Jan. 14.(Photo courtesy Alaska Court System)

She added they had to pull up carpeting, replace sheetrock and a lot of furniture in the building. They haven’t been able to assess the damage and repairs needed since it’s still wet inside.

“When I got here Tuesday morning we had about 2 to 3 inches of standing water in the majority of the courthouse,” Harrison said. “We did sustain some damage to furniture but it was mostly just a lot of sloshy water.”

According to a press release from the Alaska Court System, no physical or electronic files were damaged or lost. Emergency court matters are being taken care of by Palmer and Anchorage judges remotely while non-emergency hearings will be rescheduled. The press release from the Alaska Court System said they don’t have an estimate on how many proceedings will be delayed.

Palmer Mayor Steve Carrington is also struggling with home damage after the high winds knocked power out to his neighborhood for three days. The door and wall of his arctic entry were ripped off the front of his house while inside he’s running multiple heaters during the day to try and thaw out frozen pipes. Carrington lost heat with his electricity and vacated to an available apartment after the first 24 hours without power.

“We kind of made it through a night but we were having trouble keeping it warmer than like 40 degrees,” Carrington said. “After that we kind of said we just, we need to go.”

Carrington’s power came back on Tuesday but the water is still turned off to the home until repairs can be made. The City of Palmer, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and the Alaska National Guard have made potable water available for residents who have been affected by the recent storm. There are still about forty 5-gallon blocks of water available for pickup at the MTA Events Center front lobby. The water is being distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis with a limit of two per person.

Palmer Correctional Center near Sutton that reopened late last fall and currently houses 115 incarcerated people was without power for nearly four days after losing electricity on Jan. 1, according to Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Betsy Holley.

“Generators were utilized in the interim so they wouldn’t lose heat during the storm,” Holley said via email.

Holley said the facility suffered damage to fencing, a shop truck and part of a supply building — all of which are being addressed — but that no major repairs were needed.

“There were no injuries or health issues sustained during the outage,” Holley wrote.

In Point Mackenzie, Goose Creek Correctional Center also switched to generator power, but did not suffer a full utility power loss.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional information.

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