Bethel Community Health Service Building Shut Down Due To Power Surge

The region’s largest employer, the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation has been hit hard by the cold. It’s Community Health Services building was shut down Tuesday because of a power surge over the weekend.

“The after effect has been some heating and septic issues with the extreme temperatures,” YKHC Spokesperson, Donna Bach said.

The building has been without properly functioning water or sewer lines since Tuesday, limiting the services the corporation can offer. Many appointments in major departments are being rescheduled.

“Our optometry, our dental and our behavior health services,” Bach said.

Bach says switchboard operators are working hard to accommodate a flood of calls for rescheduling.

“When you don’t have water in the building you can’t provide, you know, dental work and whatnot,” Bach said.

The Lower Kuskokwim School District, here in Bethel, also had its share of problems with the cold temperatures.

“We have a frozen sewer line and a frozen water line up here at the district office complex,” LKSD Plant Facilities Manager, Gary Hanson said.

Hanson says the complex serves the Bethel Regional High School, two elementary schools, as well as the district office building.  School has not been in session, as students are still on winter break.

Pete Garrison, with the national weather service in Bethel, says the region has had a constant temperature of -20 degrees or lower since Christmas.

“Once the cold sets in, it’s just a big blob of cold air.  It takes a lot to move it out,” Garrison said.

Garrison says the extreme temperatures are caused by a high-pressure system centered over Siberia.

“General rule of thumb is we hit 30 to 35 below three or four times pretty much on the average, every other winter,” Garrison said.

He says the area will have to wait for warmer temperatures, which will likely not come until next week.

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Mark Arehart is a reporter with KYUK in Bethel.

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