Diomede Residents Endure Seven Days Without Electricity, Phone Service, and Heat

A landscape of Diomede, Alaska, in wintertime: a small airplane sits on a runway made of ice, with village houses nestled at the base of a steep hill in the background.

A week ago on Nov 21st, Diomede experienced a power outage, a somewhat common occurrence for the island community in the Bering Sea. What’s also common for the community is their ability to support each other and show their resilient nature until power is restored.

In a situation report issued Friday (Nov 22nd), the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) estimated that the “storm related power outage” would be resolved as soon as this past Sunday afternoon. However, a powerful winter storm swept across Western Alaska earlier this week, impacting Diomede and several other Bering Strait communities, preventing a technician from traveling to the island-community.

Residents have now been without phone service, electricity, and in some cases heat, for seven days, but Diomeders have found a way to once again adapt during a persistent power outage.

According to David Lee, an Emergency Management Specialist with SEOC, several people in the community have been sharing diesel generators and backup power sources with their neighbors, even using extension cords stretching from one home to another. Lee says the Diomede school is being used as a community shelter for those who need it, and so far, no injuries or damages have been reported.

Lee and the SEOC have been getting their information from Frances Ozenna, tribal coordinator for Diomede and recently named tribal coordinator of the year, through the use of a satellite phone. The SEOC says they continue to maintain contact with the community, although KNOM was unable to reach Ozenna on her sat phone before the airing of this story.

Due to poor weather conditions in Nome, a technician was unable to fly out to Diomede yesterday. The community remains without power until he is able to fix the issue and diagnose the exact cause for the outage.

*Correction: The original version of this story said a technician flew into Diomede on Tuesday, however weather once again prevented his flight. As of the morning of Thursday, Nov 28th, the technician has yet to reach the community and so Diomede remains without power.

Image at top: The village of Diomede, Alaska. Photo from Matty Guiffre, KNOM.


  1. Odge on November 27, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    I would like to correct Mr. Lee. The helicopter has not made it to Diomede due to the weather. Will be heading out on the first available flight out. The power plant is still providing power to the school, clinic and washeteria. The water treatment plant standby generator is still in operation to keep the water systems working. The community power distribution is still down until the problem is found and repaired.

    • H Becker on November 28, 2019 at 9:21 am

      Thanks, Odge!

  2. Sue Steinacher on November 30, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    That’s an outdated photo of Diomede! Due to a warming climate and ice retreating, Diomede no longer gets ice enough for planes to land at all! There was a time long ago when planes could land by Thanksgiving, and this year Thanksgiving Diomede is getting pounded by huge waves, with no ice in sight. Need to update your photo files!

    • KJ McElwee on January 6, 2020 at 2:48 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Sue – and my apologies that it’s taken us so long to respond! It has been nearly five years since one of our reporters went to Diomede, so our photo library is not as up to date as we would like it to be. We really appreciate the feedback, and we’ll keep this in mind for our future coverage of Diomede.

      KJ McElwee
      Development Manager