Nearly all residents evacuated from the Lilac Lane area after Sunday’s earthquake have returned home.
The 7.1 magnitude tremor caused two gas explosions that burnt four houses to the ground in Kenai, among other damages. Those who lived along Lilac Lane, Cook Inlet View Drive and Wells Way were taken to the Alaska Army National Guard Armory in Kenai for shelter until it was safe to return to the area.
By Monday morning, most of the residents made it back to their homes, said Kenai Fire Chief Jeff Tucker.
“At this point in time the area is open,” he said. “Right now it’s kind of wrapped up. We had some crews out there this morning but we’re pulling everyone back to the station.”
Only about a dozen residents had yet to make it back to their homes on Sunday night, Tucker said, because they had yet to get in touch with Enstar Natural Gas Co., which needs to inspect every home before restoring gas service.
Lindsay Hobson, communications manager for Enstar, said work on restoring heat to the area is almost finished.
“As of this morning, our system has been re-energized and we have restored service to 16 of the 24 homes in the Lilac Lane area,” she said.
Those last eight homes are pending due to Enstar organizing access to the buildings with the people who live there, Hobson said.
In turn, Homer Electric Association is waiting to get the all-clear from Enstar to restore service to the last of its meters in the area, said Director of Member Relations Joe Gallagher.
“We got most everybody in the Lilac Lane area back on last night, but as of today there are five meters … that are being disconnected because of fire damage,” he said. “Service will be discontinued until further notice.”
Families proved to be very helpful to Kenai Fire by cooperating and realizing the gravity of the situation, Tucker said.
“The biggest thing is, we’re very appreciative of the folks who live in the area as far as the evacuations,” he said.
Members of the American Red Cross of Alaska arrived at the Alaska Army National Guard Armory in Kenai from the Mat-Su Valley on Sunday afternoon to take over control of the temporary shelter set up by the armory and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.
Site Director and Disaster Program Manager for the Southcentral region Shiloh Powell said the Red Cross closed the shelter at 1 p.m. on Monday. Those who were temporarily evacuated or displaced are getting their needs met, she said. Of the four families whose houses were lost, two had homeowners’ insurance and the other two have been working on long-term housing solutions with the Red Cross, Powell said.
“We are asking people who want to donate to bring any material donations to the Salvation Army,” she said.
Powell suggested people who want to donate items contact the Salvation Army ahead of time.
“What we’ve seen in these types of disasters is such gracious community support that people become overloaded with material donations and it becomes an issue of being able to manage them,” she said.
People who want to donate food can bring it to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, and Powell suggested reaching out to the Kenai Fire Department or Enstar to see if their employees need any meals.
“Those guys have been working their butts off for a couple of days,” she said.
Those who wish to give monetary donations can do so through the Pick.Click.Give program, and the contributions can be given to the Red Cross of Alaska, Powell said.
Powell said the Kenai Fire Department, Kenai Police, Office of Emergency Management, the armory, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre and several local businesses were extremely helpful and generous when it came to keeping residents comfortable and setting up the shelter.