Nushagak Cooperative internet outage expected to continue into Wednesday

Technicians don’t yet know what caused the outage. But they suspect subzero wind chills may have shut down the site’s generator.

The internet is out across Nushagak Cooperative’s service area, which includes Dillingham, Aleknagik and Clark’s Point. Roughly 900 people are affected.

The co-op announced the outage on Monday evening and said it hopes to get the internet up and running again on Wednesday.

Technicians suspect the disruption stems from a failure of its generator, which operates the tower on Muklung Mountain, about 17 miles northeast of Dillingham.

Telecom Operations Manager Trung Vo said the Muklung tower runs on lithium ion batteries. When those batteries run low on charge, the generators is supposed to kick on to recharge them. Vo said that system is usually more efficient, since it means generator isn’t running continuously.

But this week’s subzero wind chills may have extinguished the generator’s pilot light — a small flame that gets it up and running.

“The downside is they need to start, and it did not start yesterday,” Vo said. “After we suspect the pilot light went out on our propane heater that keeps the room warm enough so they will start, and shut the site down.”

No local helicopters were available to fly out today, so the co-op arranged for one to fly from Anchorage. A helicopter is set to arrive in Dillingham late this afternoon, and fly technicians to the site on Wednesday morning. 

But the generator won’t turn on with the flip of a switch. Vo said it’s a fair amount of work.

“Probably digging out the doors,‘cause they’re probably buried somewhat with snow,” he said. “And getting in, bringing up a portable generator, starting up some heaters — maybe a propane heater, an electric heater — and then get our site propane heater running and get the room as warm as we can. And start digging in the next door.”

The co-op says it will update members on the situation Wednesday morning.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

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