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Storm knocked out power to thousands on Navajo, Hopi land

December 15, 2021 GMT

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — A storm that packed powerful winds knocked out electricity to thousands of homes on the Navajo and Hopi reservations Wednesday and snarled traffic on major roadways.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority spokesperson Deenise Becenti said the outage affected at least 10,000 homes on the Navajo Nation. Power was restored to most areas by mid-afternoon, with a goal for full restoration Wednesday evening, Becenti said.

Wind knocked over power lines in Shiprock in the New Mexico portion of the reservation. A piece of metal flew off a building and hit a power line in Kayenta on the Arizona side, she said. Navajo communities near Winslow also were affected, she said.

“They were really strong winds that started early evening (Tuesday), and it just seemed to get stronger,” Becenti said.

Crews were dispatched to replace power poles, conductors and other equipment on the vast reservation that also stretches into Utah.

Arizona Public Service Co. said about 2,000 customers on the Hopi reservation and more than 1,000 south of Payson also were without service for part of Wednesday.

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Winds peaked at 77 mph (124 kph) in Lupton and 64 mph (103 kph) at the Window Rock airport, both on the Navajo Nation, according to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff.

Crashes and slide-offs on Interstate 40 around Flagstaff to near the New Mexico state line led to some road and lane closures Wednesday. Heavy rain came before the snow, leaving roads slick into Wednesday morning. Some patches of ice and snow remained later in the day, the Arizona Department of Transportation said.

Employees with the Navajo Nation’s legislative and executive branches and students at Diné College and Navajo Technical University had a two-hour delay because of bad weather.

The power outage came as the Navajo utility hosted a crew from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power that was on the reservation to do training in a rural area and help connect homes to the electric grid, Becenti said.