Lights back on in Chugiak-Eagle River after huge quake rattles grid

Monday, December 17, 2018 - 15:14
  • Power lines near the Justine Parks electrical substation in Chugiak. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

The lights came back up before the sun did Saturday in Chugiak-Eagle River, where at 4 a.m. Matanuska Electric Association announced power had been restored to all areas following an outage that began with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ripped directly through the cooperative’s power grid.

“It is with much gratidue for our patient members and tenacious line and support crews that we report all MEA members should now have power,” the cooperative said in an early morning Facebook post.

Anyone without power is being asked to call 696-7697 in Chugiak-Eagle River or 746-7697 if they live in the Mat-Su.

The powerful earthquake caused many of the cooperative’s substations — the 20 smaller stations that receive power from the main lines and send it to customers — to go offline. At 10:16 a.m., the cooperative said crews were scrambling to fix a major disruption to the area’s electricty supply system.

“To give you some context, we have about 20 substations total,” MEA wrote. “Of those 20, only 7 are online at the moment.”

At the peak of the outage virtually all of the cooperative’s 51,000 members in Chugiak-Eagle River and the Mat-Su were without electricity. About 12,000 of those were in the Eagle River area, which sits directly across Knik Arm from the epicenter of the quake.

Power was gradually restored to most areas throughout the day, with only about 10,000 people still in the dark as the sun set just before 4 p.m.

An emergency shelter was set up at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center, where the Red Cross was on hand to offer assistance, but by 5 p.m. only about 2,500 people were still without power as crews worked to repair damage in Eagle River and along Eagle River Road and began spreading out to address smaller, localized outages. By 10:30 p.m. power was back on to most users areawide, MEA reported, and by 1 a.m. that number was down to about 100 co-op members.

That number had dwindled to three houses on Johnnie Loop in by 3 a.m. and by 4 a.m. MEA said the power was back for everyone.

“Thank you to all!” the cooperative posted before signing off after an extremely busy day.

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