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Half of Quinhagak has been without power since Dec. 8

Quinhagak, Alaska on April 19, 2023.
Gabby Salgado
Quinhagak, Alaska on April 19, 2023.

The southern half of the village of Quinhagak has been without power since Friday, Dec. 8. Phones, lights, heaters, and appliances were out.

“The south side powers the school, the store, the airport, runway lights, post office, and the clinic.” said Eric Brown, former Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) employee. “Clinic has, they're running on generator power. The store’s running on generator power, the school is running on a generator power too. But the airport, we've had to delay flights, like the morning flight. They've had to come when it gets brighter out and, like, make the evening flight to come earlier before it gets dark.”

Tribal administrator Darren Cleveland explained that two of the three generators at the village power plant stopped working.

“I don't know what's happened. It's just that the generators gave out there. We have three generators. One is working and two generators are out,” said Cleveland. “The last I got from one of the workers is that generator three needs parts. Number one still won't clear the warning lights. So they're working on getting number one going. Right now we have number two working. And that's only powering half of the village, and one generator can only support half the village and south side. The other half of the village has no power.”

Quinhagak’s power plant is a part of the AVEC, which provides electricity in towns across Western Alaska. While AVEC runs electricity for the community, Quinhagak’s school has its own generator and is open to the public. Cleveland said that many teachers are sleeping there, but nobody from the public chose to stay the night. Still, he said that residents are worried about the harsh cold engulfing the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

“Well, with the temperatures being below wind chill, below zero. The people that are on the south side are worried about their water and sewer being frozen,” Cleveland said. “And there's homes that don't even have heating, so we're worried for them.”

Many in the village of less than a thousand are staying with family to get away from the cold. That includes Dorothy Mark. She arrived home from a trip on Dec. 10 to find her home without power. She went over to stay at her niece's, who has a generator.

“I came home, all my family are at my niece’s who got a generator going. My house is really cold. I went over and came back, too cold to be over there. People with no power here. Terrible. And it's cold, below numbers,” said Mark.

With half the town in a blackout, Mark said that it’s a little crowded.

“Yeah, there’s eight of us there,” said Mark. “But we're warm. So we’re good.”

Cleveland said that while this has been a particularly long outage, issues with power are becoming the norm in Quinhagak.

“Lately we've been having power issues, power going off and on. Like, it's becoming normal. Like, come on. Get on. Get off. Power on. Like, it’s becoming annoying,” Cleveland said.

Timothy Matthew, Quinhagak’s power plant operator, said that a mechanic was in town on the evening of Dec. 10 working on the generators. Matthew said that they hope to have one of the two broken generators repaired by Dec. 11, which would bring power back to the south side of the community.

Sunni is a reporter and radio lover. Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and having a good conversation.
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