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Western Alaska Town Grapples with Prolonged Power Outage Spanning Several Days

As winter blankets the small Western Alaska community of Manokotak, residents have been grappling with an unprecedented challenge – a prolonged power outage due to a generator failure. 

The situation has left them in the cold and the dark for weeks, prompting the mayor, Melvin Andrew, to seek urgent assistance to restore electricity and address the immediate needs of the community.

Generator Failure and Community Struggles

Since December 13, Manokotak has been facing a power crisis, with a generator failure disrupting the normal flow of electricity. Mayor Andrew highlights the urgent need for a new, more substantial generator capable of powering the entire community, including the school.

However, logistical challenges, including the unsuitability of the airport for large aircraft, have complicated the delivery of a new generator.

City officials have resorted to switching power lines on a grid, resulting in frequent blackouts that sometimes last all day or night. Personal generators became a lifeline for some residents, while the school transformed into an emergency shelter for those left without power and heat in their homes.

Recognizing the severity of the situation, Manokotak passed an emergency ordinance on December 21, declaring a disaster and requesting state assistance. The Alaska Energy Authority’s emergency declaration for the Manokotak Power Company, owned by Manokotak Natives, Ltd., further emphasizes the urgency of the matter.

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Alaska Rep Bryce Edgmon Aids Manokotak Amid Power Crisis

As winter blankets the small Western Alaska community of Manokotak, residents have been grappling with an unprecedented challenge – a prolonged power outage due to a generator failure.

State Representative Bryce Edgmon, representing most of Bristol Bay and the Alaska Peninsula, acknowledges the aged state of the existing generators and the community’s abrupt shift into emergency shelter mode. Edgmon pledges to assist Manokotak in approaching outside entities for help.

During the power outage, residents endured frozen pipes, lack of heat, and difficulties in cooking or heating homes, particularly in newer housing units with electric ranges. The community faced challenges in accessing reliable cell service, further complicating communication and assistance efforts.

Manokotak officials reached out to organizations like the Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Bristol Bay Native Association for assistance. Supplies, including cots, blankets, food, milk, juice, and small propane bottles, started arriving in the city, providing some relief. However, the struggle continued as the city grappled with a winter storm and waited for the arrival of additional supplies.

Despite initial supplies and efforts to stabilize power, setbacks occurred as the city received news that a crucial part for repair was the wrong size. The community had to work with used parts, introducing uncertainty about the longevity of the makeshift solution.

As of the latest update, Manokotak officials report continuous power for 48 hours, providing a glimmer of hope for the community. The Red Cross sent 60 cots with blankets, and additional supplies from the Bristol Bay Native Corporation were expected over the New Year’s weekend.

While the immediate crisis is being addressed, Mayor Andrew emphasizes the need for both immediate and long-term solutions. State officials, including Rep. Edgmon and Sen. Hoffman, are urged to explore options for sustained funding to prevent such crises in the future, possibly involving the acquisition of an entirely new generator.

Manokotak’s winter ordeal underscores the resilience of a community facing unexpected challenges. As they work to restore normalcy, the collaboration of local and state entities, along with the community’s determination, stands as a testament to the strength of solidarity in times of crisis. 

The focus now shifts to securing long-term solutions to ensure the well-being of Manokotak residents in the face of unpredictable circumstances.

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