Wind storm turns into winter blizzard

• Widespread power outages and wind damage have Homer ducking for cover

By Hannah Heimbuch
Homer Tribune

Despite the darkened light fixtures it was difficult for patrons to find a spot to sit in Two Sister’s Bakery on Friday. Like many parts of downtown Homer and outlying areas, the bakery lost electricity when high winds brought down power lines, trees, and all manner of other objects.

Hardly fettered by the outage, tea light candles lit the tables and restrooms, and customers carried on with their lunch conversations, watching the snow whip by the windows at up to 60 mph.

But cheerful, candle-lit pockets of locals certainly weren’t the sum total of this February storm.

As of 11 a.m. on Friday the Homer Electric Association was reporting outages to more than 1,000 homes and businesses, including more than 500 off of Diamond Ridge and Old Sterling Highway. Another 358 HEA members from Anchor Point south along the Sterling Highway to the North Fork Road, as well as portions of the North Fork, were also experiencing outages. Along West Hill and Baycrest Hill in Homer another 394 dwellings were without power. Portions of downtown including Bay Avenue and parts of Pioneer avenue are also powerless, due in part to a large tree across lines behind the building housing K-Bay Caffe and the Refuge Chapel of Homer.

Other local buildings are locked up to wait out the storm and outage, like the Homer Public Library, Kachemak Bay Campus, and City Hall — which had downed power lines in the parking lot. And all around Homer and Kachemak Bay, residents, emergency services and utility providers scrambled to mend wreckage and secure what hadn’t blown away.

“We’ve been responding to downed trees and downed lines all morning long,” said Homer Police Chief Mark Robl, before heading home to get his own house warm and ready to weather the remaining blizzard. “They’re all over town. There isn’t just one specific area that’s being hit as you might guess.”

After weeks of warm weather relieved Homer of most of its snow, the wind storm came down as a hard reminder that winter is still alive and well in Alaska.

“Lots of roofs are loosing significant amounts of shingles,” Robl said. “There’s a lot of damage being done in Homer this morning. It’s looking really ugly out there — and of course we expect it to continue until quite late this evening.”

Homer Electric Association would like to remind people that contact with or even proximity to downed power lines can cause serious injury or death, and people should at no times approach downed lines. To report a power outage or downed line please call 1-888-8OUTAGE.

“HEA crews are continually out there and responding to trouble reports all over our area,” Robl said.

A blizzard warning was issued for the Kenai Peninsula including Homer, in effect until 6 p.m. Friday evening. Up to five inches of snow are predicted for Friday, with at times less than one quarter mile visibility. While wind is blowing from the north/northeast at 20 to 30 mph, gusts of up to 50 mph are likely. An earlier red flag warning reported gusts of up to 60 mph.

The larger wind gusts should die down by midnight, according to the National Weather Service, though winds up to 25 mph will continue over the weekend.

Driving conditions are expected to be very poor until the blizzard lifts, which anyone driving out East End Road or the Homer Spit Road on Friday afternoon saw first hand.

If an extended power outage does look likely, there are emergency services in the Homer area to help those most seriously effected.

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Posted by on Feb 7th, 2014 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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