Details are emerging from a messy Tuesday in Petersburg that saw heavy snow, a water line break and power outage.
Borough crews identified a failed distribution valve as the culprit in the spill from Petersburg’s water system for part of the day Tuesday.
Utility director Karl Hagerman writes in an email update that workers found corrosion on an eight-inch valve that broke around 11 a.m. that morning near the intersection of Fourth and Ira II streets. That essentially created a situation similar to an open main, allowing water to flow up through a frozen road and cascade down Ira II Street and Haugen Drive towards the Petersburg waterfront.
Home and business owners tried to keep the deluge out of buildings in the area as heavy snow fell and temperatures hovered around freezing. Employees with Petersburg Municipal Power and Light along with the Petersburg Police Department and state troopers rerouted traffic and helped clear storm drains.
Crews with the borough’s public works, water and waste water departments worked to shut off the spill. However, Hagerman writes that locating other valves proved difficult with frozen streets and it wasn’t until 4:20 p.m. they were successful in shutting off the water. Workers located the broken valve and restored service to all customers by 7:45 Tuesday evening. They continued working at the site to fill an excavated trench until around 10 that evening.
The following morning, nearby residents of the Towne Trailer Court reported no water service. The borough was trying to locate the cause of that problem, suspected to be frozen water lines.
Public works crews were pulled from snow removal on local streets to help out with Tuesday’s water line break. Two employees with the sanitation department filled in, plowing streets until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The public works street crews were back at clearing snow by 3:30 Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service says between seven and nine inches fell Tuesday, adding to Petersburg’s growing and near record setting total. With more than a week left in 2021, it’s already the second snowiest December on record for this area.
Weather conditions made driving difficult, with three or four minor accidents reported to the Petersburg Police Department and other vehicles sliding off the road and needing assistance.
Petersburg also had a power outage earlier Tuesday morning. That was due to loss of the feed from the Tyee Lake plant run by the Southeast Alaska Power Agency. Hagerman writes SEAPA is still investigating and has not identified the cause of that outage. However it happened after SEAPA changed some equipment on the system in Wrangell in preparation for the upcoming cold weather. That’s because of the possibility of having to augment hydro power with local diesel generation due to increased demand from heaters as the forecast calls for overnight temperatures dropping below zero by the weekend.
For future outages, the local utility is asking home and business owners to turn off electric heaters or other appliances, to reduce the demand on backup diesel generators as power is gradually restored. If the load is too great, it can overwhelm the standby diesels and cause another outage. Those appliances can be turned back on 15 minutes after electricity is restored.
Both Hagerman and public works director Chris Cotta praised the response by borough workers.