When a crew from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson headed up Mount Gordon Lyon in Arctic Valley above Anchorage on Friday to light the 300-foot wide holiday star, they discovered only half of the lights were working.
Airmen from the 773rd Civil Engineer Squadron Electrical Shop worked Friday and Monday until daylight began to dwindle, but they were unable to figure out what was wrong and repair the lights, JBER spokeswoman Erin Eaton said.
The group plans to return to the star Tuesday and continue work through the week, as necessary, Eaton said. It wasn’t clear Monday afternoon when the repairs would be finished.
“They’re still troubleshooting,” she said. “There’s a lot of connections they have to go through.”
The holiday star is about 4,000 feet up the mountain, near a former U.S. Army missile installation, and the presence of a star on the Chugach mountainside has been a tradition for more than 60 years.
To reach the star at this time of year, airmen drive a truck up Arctic Valley Road and eventually offload tracked vehicles at a side road and travel several more miles before they reach the star, Eaton said.
“Even during decent road conditions it can be kind of hairy,” she said.
Temperatures Monday were in the single-digits on the mountain and dropped below zero when factoring in wind, Eaton said.
Over the summer, crews repaired damage from the previous winter and replaced the 350 lightbulbs, Eaton said. The star is lit annually on Sept. 11 and Eaton said it was functioning well during that time this year.
“That’s kind of their opportunity to test for any issues and there were no issues at that time,” she said.
The star is lit for the season on the day after Thanksgiving and remains lit until the last Iditarod musher crosses the finish line. Eaton said she believes this is the first year the star hasn’t been fully lit on time.