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Col. Paul "Otto" Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to residents of Yokota Air Base in a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center Wednesday. Flooding and power outages led to many residents of Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes Tuesday.

Col. Paul "Otto" Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to residents of Yokota Air Base in a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center Wednesday. Flooding and power outages led to many residents of Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes Tuesday. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

Col. Paul "Otto" Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to residents of Yokota Air Base in a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center Wednesday. Flooding and power outages led to many residents of Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes Tuesday.

Col. Paul "Otto" Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, speaks to residents of Yokota Air Base in a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center Wednesday. Flooding and power outages led to many residents of Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes Tuesday. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

A Yokota resident asks Col. Todd Freece, 374th Mission Support Group commander, a question during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy rains Monday night led to flooding and power outages which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes.

A Yokota resident asks Col. Todd Freece, 374th Mission Support Group commander, a question during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy rains Monday night led to flooding and power outages which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

Yokota residents gathered to get information and share their concerns during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy raining Monday night led to flooding and power outages, which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes.

Yokota residents gathered to get information and share their concerns during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy raining Monday night led to flooding and power outages, which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

A concerned Yokota residents asks Col. Paul ''Otto'' Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, a question during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy rains Monday night led to flooding and power outages, which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes.

A concerned Yokota residents asks Col. Paul ''Otto'' Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, a question during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy rains Monday night led to flooding and power outages, which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

A concerned Yokota resident asks Col. Paul ''Otto'' Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, a question during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy raining Monday night led to flooding and power outages, which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes.

A concerned Yokota resident asks Col. Paul ''Otto'' Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commander, a question during a town hall meeting at the Samurai Fitness Center, Wednesday. Heavy raining Monday night led to flooding and power outages, which forced many base residents on Yokota's east side to be evacuated from their homes. (Grant Okubo/Stars and Stripes)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Two apartment towers on the east side of the base were still without power Wednesday evening as base officials continued troubleshooting the flood-induced electrical problems that began Monday night.

With two of the three main transformers on that side of the base kaput, Yokota officials have asked east-side residents to conserve energy to reduce the burden on the remaining transformer. The base is not issuing specific restrictions, but “if you don’t need it, turn it off,” base commander Col. Otto Feather said Wednesday afternoon during a packed town hall meeting at the base gymnasium. “If we lose that transformer we’re going to be toast on the entire east side.”

It was still unclear Wednesday when and how the transformer problem would be resolved or how much the fix might cost, he said, adding that the transformers were installed in 1966.

The central air-conditioning systems at many of the remaining homes with power have been cut off to conserve energy, he said.

Several hundred apartment dwellers in buildings 1563, 4302, 4303 and 4304 — a facility for families transitioning to and from Yokota — who were evacuated to the base hotel and vacant apartment buildings Tuesday could be there another day while problems are resolved, Feather said.

The lack of power in those buildings caused water systems to fail, posing potential sanitation and fire hazards that prompted the mandatory move, which the base is funding.

Feather said he would make a decision on how to proceed by noon Thursday. Other base officials advised the crowd on filing insurance claims with the military for flood-damaged property.

Feather said there was a 90 percent chance the apartment towers would have power restored by early Thursday afternoon.

But that’s the same kind of optimistic thinking that caused much of the last-minute scramble to formulate contingency plans and get the message out to affected residents, Feather conceded.

“We learned a lot in retrospect,” he said.

Among the lessons, Feather said, is the realization that Yokota needs generators to power homes during future emergencies.

Feather also acknowledged residents’ complaints about a lack of communication among base officials, saying that more communications earlier on would have been better.

The power outage started late Monday afternoon when an unprecedented 3.4 inches of rain fell on the base and surrounding area in an hour. The deluge flooded the basements of three east-side apartment towers, causing the electrical systems to malfunction. The outage spread to other east-side homes throughout Monday night.

By Tuesday morning, all east-side homes were without power, and remained dark until Tuesday evening when power was restored to all but 167 units. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, power had been restored at all townhouses.

The restoration effort caused the rest of the base to lose electricity for a short period Tuesday afternoon.

A team of commanders, first sergeants, Yokota-based Red Cross workers and volunteers are working to assist residents, Feather assured the crowd.

Residents appeared to be in relatively good spirits, though some questioned the base’s readiness in the event of future emergencies.

“My biggest concern was that this was just rain. ... It wasn’t a typhoon or an earthquake,” one Air Force wife, who asked that her name not be used, told Stars and Stripes during the meeting. “I’m concerned about what could happen in the event of a real emergency.”

reedc@pstripes.osd.mil

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