The Arctic Sounder

Power restored after a community-wide outage in Wainwright

A community-wide power outage in Wainwright left many residents without heat, electricity and water and sewer services for several days last week, the North Slope Borough officials said. The borough Mayor Josiah Patkotak declared a local disaster emergency due to the outage.

The Wainwright power plant lost electrical power to the main generator at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, the borough officials said in the emergency declaration. The issue led to a system-wide failure, the borough said in a statement. The power was restored Friday.

A borough lineman and mechanic flew to the community to assess the situation Wednesday but could not turn on the power plant, the borough said.

Residential, administrative and business buildings were affected by the outage, including the local hotel and restaurant and the office of the Olgoonik Corporation.

The village, city, Olgoonik Corporation, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the borough provided fuel for individual power generation, Patkotak said. Temporary power was supplied to the water treatment plant, fuel station, bowhead whale freezers and the Alak School, he said. The school was open all day to accept residents who needed a place to warm up, the borough said.

“The community members are the first responders while we continue to get supplies shipped,” Patkotak said. “In our small communities, the first line of defense is relying on ourselves as we’re all one big family.”

Emergency services stayed operational, but 911 calls were delayed, the Wainwright Volunteer Fire Department staff said on social media.


By Friday, the crew implemented a temporary fix, reworking the switchgear to bring electricity back online.

“This is not a permanent solution to the degrading infrastructure in Wainwright, but we are confident that it will buy us time for a more long-term fix,” the borough said in a statement Friday.

Residents were advised to conserve power and plug in electronic devices and appliances gradually to avoid overloading the system, the borough said.

The outage highlighted the need for the borough “to work on solutions that prepare (them) for future incidents and ensure the resilience and reliability of (their) power systems,” the borough staff said.

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.