2018.01.17 Old: Alaskan snow & police news

Tired of snow? This is nothing compared to those in the north. The same goes for loose dogs, as detailed in this column from 20 years ago.


Glancing out the window at our green winter, I’m wondering how things are going up in Valdez, Alaska. White is the color up there.

For a while, it looked like the El Niño winter was going to make things odd. I read a newspaper report about fishermen coming home with tuna. It was unusual to catch tuna that far north, but warm ocean currents were bringing some guests to the waters.

November passed with below-average snowfall, then it started changing in December. Anchorage had 26 inches that month, a little more than double the normal.

Farther south in Valdez, area snowfall was also doubled last month, but take a look at what they consider normal. On the Thompson Pass—heading north out of Valdez—205 inches is the average for that time of year. But as of Dec. 15, 413 inches had fallen. That’s more than 34 feet.

They were having some problems with avalanches. There were 16 of them along a 13-mile stretch of the Richardson Highway. They weren’t so deep—one to five feet on the average—but some were more than a mile long. It’s tough driving through five feet of snow that slid off the side of a mountain. 

Rain was the initial problem. It made a slippery base once it froze and the new snow just slid off it. And there was a little new snow to add to the troubles. During a three-day storm, 99 inches fell.

The highway department likes to control potential avalanches before the snow collapses on its own, so they shoot 105-millimeter shells into snow banks from a Korean war howitzer.

That brings you up to date on the Alaskan weather. Now on to the dogs and crimes.

I don’t know why I find the loose dog reports of Alaska so fascinating. Maybe Morenci’s would be, too, if we had more details. We need to know the names of the dogs who are barking and running loose, not just a mention of the report.

It’s been months since my last Alaska dog report, but when I picked up the most recent copy of the Dutch Harbor Fisherman, I see that Sparky, the black lab, was reported at large. Sparky was one of the main troublemakers last summer. He’s always out. He might as well join the police department as their official K-9 unit.

The paper comes from Unalaska, a community out on the Aleutian Islands chain. Unalaska has the distinction of producing the longest police report of any Alaska paper I receive. In one week before Christmas, police had 68 complaints to handle, and this is a town about the size of Morenci.

Dec. 12, 10:29: A group of 15 teenagers was throwing snowballs at vehicles. Dec. 16, 4:35 p.m.: A house was reported on fire, but it was actually a chair in the bed of a truck. Dec. 18, 7:53 p.m.: An eat-and-run incident was reported at a local restaurant. Many other police items were about intoxicated persons or dogs.

Here’s what they’re naming their dogs in Unalaska these days: Noche, Maggie, Hue, Catman, Bear, Hache, Chinook, Lucky, Ozzie, Boss Dog, Maverick, Trixie, Tundra, Ulysses, BamBam, Boomer, Spooky, Quest, Chew and Decker.

There was an account in the Homer paper about a cat named Eagle Bait that disappeared in April and finally came home in December. The cat was famous for having once sprung upon a moose’s chest and scaring it away from a man who was chopping wood.

Another paper, the Valdez Vanguard, was too kind to me. They printed a year-end wrap-up of what they called “Quirky Police Reports.” Squirrels stealing biscuits. Loss of a small wooden pig on a red string. Bunnies eating flowers. Car stuck on Duck Flats with the tide coming over the windshield. Man howling on hill.

I only hope that snow finally falls in Morenci and that life is every bit as exciting as Valdez.