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Southeast Alaska News

And Ketchikan’s total rainfall for the year is….

Mon, 2014-01-06 16:55

So far in 2014, Ketchikan has gotten about two inches of rain. It’s been less than a week, though, and as we know, there’s plenty more to come.

A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Juneau predicts that the rest of this winter will be colder and wetter than normal for Southeast Alaska. He also gave a brief weather recap for 2013, including Ketchikan’s official rainfall total for the year.

As the saying goes: It rains in a rainforest. How much? Well, Ketchikan averages a little more than 150 inches every year, with some years approaching 200.

This past year was an interesting one, from a meteorologist’s perspective.

“For Ketchikan, the entire year was one of extremes in terms of precipitation,” said Rick Fritsch with the National Weather Service office in Juneau.

He said that only two months – August and November –had normal levels of precipitation. Several summer months were particularly dry; and then there was December, “Where Ketchikan received 13.45 inches above normal. To put that in perspective, that’s almost 100 percent more.”

Fritsch explained where all that rain came from.

“Believe it or not, weather that begins as a convective complex in the Indian Ocean makes it across the Indian Ocean to the Southwest Pacific Islands area and then eventually has an impact on our weather in Southeast Alaska,” he said.

In the case of December, there was a solid connection between Southeast to the tropical Pacific Ocean. Fritsch said that moisture just kept coming our way, carried by a series of low pressure systems that form in the Northwest or West Central Pacific and then head to the Gulf of Alaska, “where all good lows go to die.”

While it’s considered poor form to look a gift horse in the mouth, I just had to ask why the summer of 2013 was so gloriously dry and warm.

“The short answer is we got lucky,” he said. “The longer answer had to do with the fact that the jet stream was keeping things far enough away from us, either to the north or to the south.”

That jet stream defines where those soggy lows end up. And speaking of soggy, Fritsch had a prediction. While the first few days of January have been above-average in terms of temperature, he said, “I still am expecting the winter as a total, December January and February, to come out below normal in terms of temperature, and right now it looks like we have a pretty good chance of above normal in terms of precipitation.”

He added that it’s a little too early in the year to predict spring and summer.

Oh, and despite that dry summer, Ketchikan’s total rainfall for 2013 was pretty average. Fritsch reported that Alaska’s First City hit 151 inches even.

Space heater suspected in Saturday house fire

Mon, 2014-01-06 16:15

While the official cause of a Saturday morning house fire remains under investigation, Ketchikan Fire Chief Frank Share says he believes it originated with an electric space heater.

The fire department received the first call about the Edmonds Street fire at 9:30 a.m. Share says firefighters arrived within a couple of minutes, and remained at the scene until about 5 p.m.

One house was destroyed and two others were damaged, but there were no injuries. Share says the house where the fire began had no smoke detectors, and the lone occupant who had been sleeping narrowly escaped.

Share encourages everyone to install smoke detectors, and check the batteries regularly.

He adds that there did not appear to be any damage to the wooden boardwalk adjacent to the damaged homes. However, the city has cordoned it off while officials examine the structural integrity.

After school lineup at Sitka Fine Arts Camp

Mon, 2014-01-06 10:49

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Bayla Laks, SFAC After-School Coordinator, and Adam Andis, photography instructor, discuss the lineup of programs available for children and adults starting Jan 20 at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Learn more about SFAC online.

Mon Jan 6, 2014

Mon, 2014-01-06 10:41

Listen to iFriendly audio.
Services planned for Vida Davis, Tlingit elder and educator. Sitka’s Himschoot wins national teaching prize. New Petersburg borough plans state land selections. ASMI seeking entries in annual photo contest.

3 apply to fill vacant Ketchikan City Council seat

Mon, 2014-01-06 01:04

KETCHIKAN — Three people have applied to fill a seat recently vacated on the Ketchikan City Council.

The Ketchikan Daily News says the three candidates — Dick Coose, Jacquie Meck and Mickey Robbins — also were candidates to fill the initial vacancy created by the November departure of Sam Bergeron.

Bergeron’s replacement, Russell Wodehouse, resigned Dec. 19, just days after other members learned he had been fired and his teaching certificate revoked in Washington state after a sexual misconduct investigation. Wodehouse denies the allegations.

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Corps of Engineers advances Arctic port study

Mon, 2014-01-06 01:04

ANCHORAGE — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is preparing to recommend a configuration of port facilities in western Alaska that could serve ships sailing to Arctic waters.

The Corps in early March will announce which configuration of docks, harbors and other infrastructure could best serve vessels in northern U.S. waters. The choice could be Nome, nearby Port Clarence, or a combination of the Seward Peninsula locations.

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Rural Alaska telecom services to be expanded

Mon, 2014-01-06 01:03

ANCHORAGE — Urban and rural telecom expansions will continue in 2014.

In rural Alaska, the General Communications Inc. TERRA-Northwest project is expected to extend faster broadband service from Nome to Kotzebue.

The TERRA service relies on a hybrid of fiber and microwave systems, and produced improved broadband performance in much of Southwest and Northwest Alaska in 2013, with Nome coming online toward the end of the year.

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For homeless, few options at night

Mon, 2014-01-06 01:03

ANCHORAGE — It’s 14 degrees in Anchorage and afternoon winter darkness is falling. You have nowhere to stay.

Where will you spend the night?

There are four basic answers for a single adult, according to professionals who serve the city’s homeless population: a shelter, the sleep-off center, an emergency room or jail.

Otherwise, people sleep in tents and cars, even in frigid temperatures.

Last month, two women died doing just that.

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Kodiak sewer replacement project enters 8th year of hidden progress

Mon, 2014-01-06 01:02

KODIAK — This summer, the city of Kodiak will begin the eighth year of the Aleutian Homes Water and Sewer Replacement Project, an ambitious effort to replace all water, sewer and storm drain conduits in Kodiak’s most densely populated neighborhood.

The project, which will need more than a decade before all is said and done, solves water and sewage leaks that have plagued Kodiak and cost the city millions of dollars.

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Afognak opens new Kodiak building

Mon, 2014-01-06 01:02

KODIAK — The finishing touches are being put on the new headquarters for the Afognak Native Corp. in Kodiak.

Only minor details remain before the building is 100 percent complete, including hanging artwork and setting up a conference table, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

Since 1995, the native corporation’s Kodiak office was in the Alutiiq Center, a building that also houses the Alutiiq Museum. The corporation has headquarters in Anchorage.

The new 10,000-square-foot building is on Near Island. It’s intended mainly for shareholder services.

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Sitka’s Himschoot wins national teaching prize

Sun, 2014-01-05 17:39

Rebecca Himschoot. (AFSUSA photo)

A Sitka educator has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.

Rebecca Himschoot teaches Science at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. She’s one of two Alaskan teachers honored by the White House this year, and one of only 102 teachers nationwide who receive the recognition, which includes a $10,000 cash prize from the National Science Foundation.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Rebecca Himschoot is the Science teacher for 2nd through 5th grade. She says that she really doesn’t do anything extraordinary for her students, beyond what any good teacher tries to do.

It’s mainly about keeping kids engaged. The skies over Sitka are gray and rainy much of the time. Learning about planets and astronomy can be a tough sell. But Himschoot, through a grant from the local charitable trust, brings in a Starlab every year, and inflates it — sort of like a giant bouncy castle — inside the gym.

“If my teacher in elementary school had brought in a planetarium to the classroom, it probably would have caught my attention, and maybe even changed the direction I went with my education.”

Himschoot also takes advantage of opportunities for professional development that other teachers may not. In 2007 she traveled aboard a research vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as one of NOAA’s Teachers at Sea. It was a three-week cruise in the Bering Sea studying the pollock fishery.

But she also finds opportunities closer to home.

“I try to use local resources as much as I can to connect kids to science, so I bring in lots of Forest Service scientists. The Sitka Sound Science Center has brought some scientists to town who came into the classroom and helped kids connect more to science. So I think it’s those little extras that might catch attention.”

It was Forest Service biologist Rob Miller who nominated Himschoot for the award, which goes to only two teachers from each state. Himschoot entered the paperwork back in 2012, and had pretty much forgotten about it until she was notified this past December, just before school went out on winter break.

The national recognition — along with a lot of rest over vacation — has helped energize her getting back into the classroom.

“Though I had an excellent education, I was not turned on to Science. I feel I have an obligation — if I have the great gift to teach Science all day every day, that comes with the responsibility of helping kids connect more to Science and making it more real to them.”

Besides winning $10,000, which she can spend any way she likes, Himschoot will get an all-expense trip to Washington DC, and a chance to meet President Obama. The president’s schedule could upset that plan. More of a sure thing, though, is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Institution.

That’s cool, she’s pretty sure.

“Possibly geeky for other people, but for a teacher very, very exciting.”

Two other Sitka teachers are previous winners of the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science: Cheryl Hedden and Barbara Renoux.

Himschoot’s colleague from Alaska, sharing this year’s honor, is Amy Laufer, a Math teacher at Kasuun Elementary in Anchorage.

KCAW’s Melissa Marconi-Wentzel contributed to this story.

Homer News celebrates 50 years

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:07

HOMER — During 2014, Homer will note several milestones. Some are sad, like the 50th anniversary of the March 27, 1964, Great Alaska Earthquake, and the 25th anniversary of the March 24, 1989, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. Others are transformative, like the March 28, 1964, official incorporation of the city of Homer. The year begins with an anniversary important to this paper: the 50th year of our publication as the longest-running newspaper on the lower Kenai Peninsula.

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Alaska Natives seek degrees at Haskell University

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:07

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Since he was old enough to carry a gun — in his remote Alaskan village, that’s about 8 — Daniel Andrew has helped his family hunt seal, caribou and moose to eat. Beaver-trapping, berry-picking and egg-hunting also are part of life in a place where groceries, at times, are a bush plane ride or an ice road drive away.

Outside Grace Denning’s home are views of deep green forests marching down mountainsides to the edge of the ocean. The air is always cool and fresh, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.

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Preliminary education task force report answers few questions

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:07

A two-page report by the state’s education task force released Thursday has left a lot to be desired by Juneau’s legislative delegation.

House Sustainable Education Task Force co-chair Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla, said the report was only preliminary and that the group has until 2015 to complete a full report.

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Conserving the Kenai king is a mandate for board, ADFG

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:06

Editor’s note: This is the 10th and final part of the Morris Communications series “The case for conserving the Kenai king salmon.”


King salmon are the lynchpin of the Cook Inlet fishery. Other runs of other salmon species are far more abundant, but the health of king salmon affects all users.

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Alaska hosts Walmart execs over salmon labelling issue

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:06

JUNEAU — State officials will host a delegation of Walmart executives in Juneau next week to further discuss a flap over seafood certification and how the company buys seafood.

In 2011, the world’s largest retailer decided to only buy seafood that was certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a London-based organization.

The Northwest and Alaska Seiners Association of Kenai says a number of large Alaska processors have dropped the MSC program because of costs and burdensome paperwork.

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Kodiak man accused of pouring gasoline on man

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:05

KODIAK — A 47-year-old Kodiak man is accused of pouring gasoline on another man, who feared he would be set on fire and ran.

Darin Wolfe is charged with attempted murder and assault, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Friday.

According to court documents, police received a call from the victim Wednesday morning about the gasoline dousing.

The incident occurred outside the trailer in an area where police discovered drugs after serving search warrants in September.

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Alaska banks scramble Target security breach

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:05

ANCHORAGE — Financial institutions in Alaska are scrambling to reissue debit and credit cards to thousands of customers affected by a massive data breach that hit retailer Target.

On Dec. 19, Target confirmed that data connected to about 40 million debit and credit card accounts nationwide was stolen. Last week, the retailer said the stolen data included pin numbers for debit cards.

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Former Bethel mayor leads Nuvista coop

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:04

BETHEL — A former Bethel mayor has been chosen to lead Nuvista Light and Electric Cooperative, a group that was created to generate energy for a sustainable future.

Tiffany Zulkosky, 29, became the group’s new executive director last month, KYUK reported.

The group seeks to become a power producer, which would sell cheaper electricity to retail utilities, which then sell to customers.

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Anchorage man charged with assaulting acquaintance

Sun, 2014-01-05 01:04

ANCHORAGE — Bail has been set at $1 million for an 18-year-old Anchorage man charged with sexual assault.

Jessye Potts is being held at the Anchorage Jail. He’s charged with one kidnapping count, four sexual assault counts and two assault counts.

Police say Potts just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday met a 17-year-old girl for a walk near the Ocean View neighborhood in south Anchorage.

Police say Potts took the girl’s phone, used restrains to confine the girl and sexually assaulted her.

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