A power outage last week on Little Diomede brought help from the Alaska National Guard when regularly scheduled helicopter service to the remote island community was down for maintenance.
Carolyn Heflin with the Bering Strait School District said the community on Diomede lost power sometime between Tuesday, Dec. 9, and early Wednesday, Dec. 10. The power remained out through the following Thursday, and Heflin said that’s when BSSD looked into solutions. The district called on contract electrician Lee Hewitt, who was already working on another job for BSSD in Shishmaref. Hewitt made his way to Nome but wasn’t able to fly on to Diomede, as local charter Erickson Aviation’s helicopter was down for maintenance.
Heflin said she and others in the district recalled a similar community-wide power outage in Savoonga, back in 2010, which saw frozen pipes and other issues after as much as 90 percent of the community lost power. Heflin said BSSD moved to do what it could to prevent a similar situation, and with regular flights not planned through Erickson until Monday, the district reached out to state emergency services.
Diomede had been without power for more than 24 hours when the Alaska National Guard launched a Blackhawk helicopter out of Nome Friday, Dec. 12. The helicopter carried electrician Hewitt the final 140 miles to Diomede. The Blackhawk crew touched down that afternoon and was back in Nome later that day.
BSSD reports Diomede residents had gathered in the community school, which had food and water supplies as well as emergency generators, as Hewitt got to work. According to Heflin, power was restored around 4 p.m. Friday.