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Windy March Storms in Wales Cause Concern for Future

Wales, Alaska
The community of Wales, Alaska, April 2015.

March brought a series of storms across the Seward Peninsula, and in one Bering Strait community that meant a series of power outages.

In Wales, one resident expressed worry.

“We’re worried about the newborns and elders being without heat, that was our main concern.”

– Frank Oxerok Jr.

That’s Frank Oxerok Jr., describing concerns as the community experienced March blizzards. Wales saw wind speeds gusting up to 60mph with temperatures in the single digits and below zero.

The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, or AVEC, serves power needs for Wales and the region.

Eight of the 11 winter maintenance orders AVEC responded to in Wales this winter season were in March. AVEC CEO Bill Stann says most of those orders were for power outages caused by damage to overhead service wires. He says when those poles and wires were installed over 50 years ago, it made sense to install them above ground.

“They are a bit more exposed to these sorts of weather events, but they’re more easily repaired and minimize overall outage time.”

Bill Stann, AVEC CEO

If windy storms continue to hit the community, there could be more outages. Oxerok has been watching weather patterns in Wales change throughout his life.

“I could tell you from growing up here in Wales, our storms used to be gale force winds, now they’re hurricane force.  The winds are bad nowadays, we never used to get winds like these.”

– Frank Oxerok Jr.

Oxerok says the community is looking for resolutions for their energy needs, but first he says they need to have an open dialogue.

“There are some real problems that they need to talk to the public, like the citizens of Wales and the tribal members to see what they can do, what we all can do, and to try to face these energy problems that are going to come up.  If we don’t, we are going to be in a world of hurt.”

AVEC plans to continue their service in Wales with above ground infrastructure and maintenance, while speaking to the state legislature about power needs in rural Western Alaska.

Image at top: The community of Wales, Alaska, April 2015. Photo by, KNOM.

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