A winter storm over the weekend caused multiple power outages in the Northern Lynn Canal and even sank a boat in the Haines Portage Cove Harbor.
Almost 90 Alaska Power and Telephone customers went 24 hours without power this weekend. AP&T Skagway manager Darren Belisle says several outages happened Saturday and one lasted through Sunday afternoon.
“It was all weather-related,” Belisle said.
According to the National Weather Service, some areas around Haines saw more than 15 inches of slushy, heavy snow Saturday. Winds gusted up to 60 miles per hour in Skagway and 40 miles per hour in Haines.
Belisle says the most extreme outage happened Saturday at about 2:40 p.m., when a tree fell and broke the main transmission line that connects Haines to Skagway’s power plant.
He says it knocked out power to both communities. After about ten minutes, he says they were able to restore most people’s power by running a back-up diesel generator. But 87 customers near the downed transmission line out Lutak Road were left in the dark for nearly 24 hours, until 2 p.m. Sunday. Belisle says linemen worked through Saturday night to restore power.
“They had to hike everything in and then climb every pole and fix it,” Belisle said.
There were also smaller weather-related outages on Anway Road and around 10 Mile of the Haines Highway.
“[It was a] combination of a perfect storm,” said Haines Interim Harbormaster Gabe Thomas.
When the snow was coming down Saturday, Thomas and several others spent about three hours shoveling boats in the Portage Cove Harbor.
“From the time I was down here it probably snowed a foot and half of that heavy wet snow in three hours, it felt like anyway,” Thomas said. “We get done with one boat, you look over and another one is starting to lean real bad. So we just kept going down all the rows.”
On Sunday morning, Thomas returned to the harbor to check on the boats.
“[I]look over there and I notice there’s one missing,” Thomas said. “And I could see the bow of the boat just sticking out of the water, barely.”
Thomas says security footage shows the 38-foot bayliner sinking around 1 a.m. Sunday. He thinks the combination of heavy snow and strong winds pulled the vessel under.
Thomas says the boat belongs to an out-of-towner. On Monday, a salvage effort was underway. Thomas says it doesn’t look there’s cause for concern about pollution.
The heavy snow also impacted Haines drivers. The school had multiple events scheduled Saturday evening — high school basketball games and a homecoming dance. The basketball games happened, but the dance was cancelled.
“Because the homecoming would’ve had a lot of students driving, we made the choice to cancel it,” said Superintendent Tony Habra. “The weather was just too bad.”
The Haines Police Department says despite the road conditions, no car accidents were reported to them over the weekend.
Forecaster Edward Lisky with the National Weather Service in Juneau says the Saturday snowstorm was unusual.
“You had a very stiff east wind up there and it was still snowing despite that,” Lisky said. “Usually if you get an east wind up there it changes to rain pretty quickly.”
Lisky says the fast rate of precipitation caused the atmosphere to cool down enough that the snow didn’t turn to rain, even though temperatures were above freezing on the ground. Lisky says the process of snow melting to rain takes heat out of the atmosphere.
“It cooled the atmosphere down enough that all the [precipitation] just stayed snow at the surface,” Lisky said.
The precipitation will continue for much of this week. Lisky says the forecast is rain, rain, and maybe a little bit of snow.
As of Monday afternoon, both the Haines and Klondike Highways were closed at the border because of road and weather conditions.