Power to the people

Through Marcie Obremski

Updated: 35 minutes ago Posted: 51 minutes ago

With sub-zero temperatures and wind speeds exceeding hurricane force in some areas, power outages could be expected during storms last weekend. As it turned out, one could also expect kindness from compassionate and problem-solving Alaskans.

As a resident of Matanuska Valley, I saw the storm forecast for the New Years weekend and observed the weather as the winds picked up. As the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, I knew that when the lights started flashing, it was going to go crazy.

Many Anchorage and Valley crews had already been deployed to Fairbanks after heavy snowfall and freezing rain damaged distribution lines and transformers, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power. As the temperatures dropped and the winds picked up, everything became more difficult, as the hydraulics of chain trucks and bucket trucks are also affected by the cold. As the weather got worse in more and more areas, ice accumulated, trees fell on lines, power poles broke, transformers blew up, and line crews fell on the lines. are displaced from the interior to south-central Alaska.

In areas where backup crews arrived from out of town, retired local electricians were called into service due to their knowledge of the terrain and the local power grid. Utility support teams made up of mechanics, tree cutters, dispatchers, administrative staff and warehouses also worked to support restoration efforts.

Days later, when storms raged through the Matanuska Valley and Anchorage, crews deployed to Fairbanks returned to help with further outages – some working 12 days in a row, 24 hours a day.

Throughout this weather madness, we have witnessed tremendous community support as neighbors with electricity opened up to each other, offering hot showers or a place to charge their cell phones. In some areas, groups of volunteers dug people out of snowdrifts and barricaded them in their homes.

As electricians, we train ourselves to be as prepared as possible when emergencies of this magnitude occur. As residents, it’s a good reminder that we can do the same. With several winter months yet to come, now is a good time to replenish emergency supplies and make a plan.

To each of you who have done your part to answer emergency calls, thank you. To every Alaskan who has contacted a neighbor, well done to you too. We take everything for granted, but the real power of weathering storms like this lies with each of us to be prepared and help each other when needed, and that is exactly what the Alaskans did.

Marcie Obremski is the business director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1547, which represents more than 4,000 electrical, communications, construction, government and health care workers across the state of ‘Alaska.

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