Update: Almost everyone in Anchorage should had have their power restored by Sunday night — five days after Tuesday’s giant windstorm, utility companies said.
Chugach Electric Association, the biggest electrical utility serving the city, had fewer than 500 customers without power as of 11 a.m. Sunday, spokeswoman Sarah Wiggers said.
Eighteen crews were in the field at that point and made rapid progress. All known outages should be back in service by the end of Sunday, she said
“Things have gone spectacularly today,” she said.
Some of the last residents to see their power restored were in Muldoon and the Anchorage Hillside, she said.
Each of the other area electric utilities, Matanuska Electric Association and city-owned Municipal Light and Power, reported only about a dozen customers without power as of Saturday. Maybe a few customers still were down on Sunday, spokeswoman Ronnie Dent said.
Utilities say anyone still without power should call their supplier.
About a thousand Anchorage customers were still without electricity as of Saturday night, four days after a powerful windstorm toppled trees onto power lines across the city. Residents continued to deal with debris over the weekend.
At least 70,000 electric customers in Southcentral lost power at some point during the storm, some for days. And while many residents had trees fall on their cars and homes, no serious injuries or deaths were reported from the storm.
Still, for many Saturday, it was proving difficult to heat homes, keep food cold and find places to clean up. Toward that latter end, the city announced it was opening the Fairview Community Center locker rooms from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday and noon to 9 p.m. weekdays for anyone needing a hot shower.
Utility crews were restoring service to spread-out patches of customers Friday night and Saturday. In the Baxter Road area, one of the hardest hit, driveways and yards were mostly clear of debris Saturday but the buzzing of chain saws and wood chippers could still be heard as residents finished off the last of the logs.
Nearby, two four-man crews of state wildland firefighters and their specialized trucks prepared to fell some of the larger, hanging trees still causing concern. The firefighters are specialists called "sawyers," said Ed Fogels, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Natural Resources.
"They're trained in cutting down and disposing of large trees, so we think they'll be of great assistance," Fogels said.
While other parts of Anchorage recorded the worst gusts, East Anchorage suffered greater damage for several reasons, said John Madden, Alaska's emergency management director.
"The Hillside did see higher winds but the houses are built expecting that wind and the trees are much smaller. They're almost at treeline, so they're much smaller and closer to the ground," Madden said. "(In East Anchorage) there's a long, flat area for the wind to pick up and has a lot of trees going high above the houses."
Nearly all the houses in the area are also serviced by Chugach Electric, which, of the three local utilities affected by the storm, had the most customers still without power entering the weekend. That number hung around a thousand Saturday after 30 crews working Saturday brought pockets of customers online 20, 50 or 100 at a time, the utility said.
It was difficult to be precise about how many people still needed to be reconnected, said Chugach spokeswoman Sarah Wiggers.
"It's such a moving number," Wiggers said. "Sometimes they get out in the field and find more customers without power than were reported."
Each of the other area electric utilities, Matanuska Electric Association and city-owned Municipal Light and Power, reported only about a dozen customers without power Saturday.
One of those households was Sandy Maxwell's family, who were entering their fourth day without electricity.
"We're doing OK. Fire in the fireplace. Ice in the fridge," Maxwell said. "It could be worse and 20 below outside."
The fire had brought Maxwell's family closer -- literally, she said: The Maxwells' two teenage daughters dragged a mattress next to the fireplace and nearer to their parents' bedroom to stay warm.
"There's been more idle time," Maxwell said. "Just kind of sitting around reading and trying to stay warm. Board games at night, with candles, once the sun goes down."
Back in East Anchorage, where logs and branches still lined the streets, Suzanna Pannor was also making the most of the storm's aftermath. Pannor, an Indian education tutor at Nunaka Elementary, was organizing piles of birch bark she'd found, as well spruce boughs from a tree that went down in her yard, all of which she hoped to use in an art project.
"I'm going to miss your tree!" shouted a neighbor driving by.
"Me too!" Pannor yelled. "Maybe we'll make something out of it."
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.Add your photos to the reader storm gallery
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By CASEY GROVE
Anchorage Daily News