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UPDATE: Helicopter pilot says power restored to at least some parts of village

(KTUU)
Published: Jan. 18, 2017 at 1:47 PM AKST
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UPDATE: A helicopter pilot with Erickson Helicopters said community members told him power has been restored to at least part of the village.

Michael Kutyba said he had just returned from Little Diomede shortly after 4 p.m.

Kutyba said he delivered 5,000 lbs of food and essential items and also picked up a technician from the village of Wales to work on the power issue.

"Everybody was in good spirits, it didn't look like anyone was in distress," Kutyba said.

Weather temperatures were about 25 degrees below zero, according to Kutyba.

Kutyba said he has another trip to Little Diomede planned for Friday, but if weather doesn't look good he will fly there on Thursday.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Officials with the State of Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management are investigating reports of a power outage on the remote island of Little Diomede.

Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for the division said it's unclear exactly when the outage began and phone communications are also down.

"We have not actually been able to contact the community to determine the extent of the power outage," Zidek said.

A helicopter which delivers mail to Little Diomede was scheduled to fly to the community carrying a satellite phone and power plant operator Wednesday afternoon.

A phone recording by Erickson Inc. based in Nome said the helicopter would arrive around noon.

When the outage began is unclear.

"We had some reports it was out on Friday," Zidek said. "The mail helicopter went out there on Monday, but folks in the community did not relay that to him at that time, so it may be an issue they were dealing with since Friday and we're just not clear on the extent of the power outages right now."

Gary Eckenweiler, facilities director for Bering Strait School District in Unalakleet said his understanding is the outage happened after the community's power plant went out.

"I don't know what caused it to go out, I know they have a contractor lined up to work on the generator and I don't know if that has anything to do with it," Eckenweiler said.

It's not the first time an outage has happened on Little Diomede.

"We've had full power outages there, we had one last year and that was pretty much the whole community," Eckenweiler said.

The school district was made aware of the issue on Monday.

"We're crossing our fingers that all is well out there," Eckenweiler said. "That community's pretty used to using the school as an emergency shelter, that's not uncommon there."

Eckenweiler said there have been issues with equipment corroding in the past.

"We have things disappear on us, disintegrate and it's like you get Bobcats or that kind of equipment, we leave it there for like 2 years and it'll look like it's 30 years old," Eckenweiler said.

Zidek said once the state is able to make contact with Little Diomede, it will determine what sort of help is needed if any.

"Power outages in rural Alaska occur frequently as well as communication issues, we're gonna keep trying to contact the community to make sure they don't need any critical assistance or they don't have any emergency needs," Zidek said.

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