Petersburg got nearly two feet of new snow last weekend causing one boat to sink in the harbor. Borough workers scrambled, attending to roads, power lines, and the harbors all day Saturday and Sunday. As KFSK’s Angela Denning reports, the job isn’t done yet.
Residents woke up Saturday morning to cars that were buried and impassable driveways.
“Line crew was pretty much out all weekend dealing with issues here and there,” said Karl Hagerman, Borough Utility Director.
He says there were no major power outages but several smaller ones at people’s homes. He says a lot of their work was dealing with tree branches coming into contact with power lines. It’s a common problem when the snow gets heavy.
“It’s amazing how far a branch will drop down where it was clear by several feet before the snowfall is now right in the line,” Hagerman said.
Power and Light received several phone calls about power flickering in and out over the weekend and he says it’s from the same thing.
“The reason that flickering goes away and the power stays on is because those little branches will start to burn and they’ll actually burn away and they’ll clear themselves and then the fault doesn’t exist anymore,” Hagerman said. “And that could be happening in several locations around town.”
Tree branches burning themselves away from power lines might sound like a natural fix but it doesn’t always work. And trees touching power lines can cause electrocution.
“Especially, you know, kids like to be out and play in the snow and they may not realize that a tree is leaning into a line and starting to act as a conductor,” said Hagerman.
Hagerman says it’s nearly impossible to find the problems until there is a large enough fault where it trips a circuit. So he encourages people to call Power and Light at 907-772- 4203 if they see any trees contacting power lines. Another way the public can help is clearing paths for the meter reader. The worker is on foot and piled-up snow can be an obstacle.
Here is a video of small branches burning on power lines recorded by Line Foreman, Kevin Hess:
Road crews were also out all weekend, says Chris Cotta, the Public Works Director.
“A lot of snow in a short amount of time,” he said. “We’re still catching up. Our snow dumps and our street shoulders are full and the crew is working right now to open things up again.”
He says to even get started, his crew first had to make their way from their buried homes to get to the borough’s plow equipment early Saturday morning. And the equipment itself isn’t made to move large amounts of snow at once.
“A lot of our routes are done partially by loaders and you know, a loader has a certain amount of snow that can be scooped up,” Cotta said. “And so when you get higher snow depth it just takes longer for the equipment to deal with that snow.”
The public works department is asking residents to avoid parking in the street during snow removal. And to be patient. If there is a bunch of snow, road crews will eventually return to driveways to clear large berms that they created. (Public Works can be contacted at 907-772-4430.)
It’s not just on land where heavy snow presents issues. A 40 foot trolling boat sank in Petersburg’s South Harbor and another 50 foot vessel almost did. Both boats owners were out of town.
Glorianne Wollen is the Harbor Master. She says her entire crew worked 20 hour days.
“All hands on deck,” Wollen said. “We had boats sinking and floats and I think we made over 100 phone calls to boat owners to say, ‘Come down and deal with your vessel’.”
After five hours of work, the sunken boat resurfaced.
Wallen says heavy snow and ice can shift the center of gravity on a boat and cause it to rollover.
The forecast calls for cold temperatures to continue but when it does warm up, Wallen says that can be just as threatening to boat owners.
“Ways for boats to drain become frozen and kind of become plugs,” she said. “And so you end up with a melting situation that has nowhere to go and that will create a lot of issue too.”
Wollen says boat owners should get someone to check on their boats when they’re out of town and to let the harbor office know who it is in case something happens. (The Harbor office can be reached at 907-772-4688.)