SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Ketchikan 2013: A year of moderation in most things



January 07, 2014
Tuesday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska - In a year in which there was no single overriding story to dominate local interest, it makes sense that a most “moderate” summer weather year would be what people are talking about the most. Indeed, one of the most pleasant summers in the past twenty years seemed to give locals at least a taste of what summer is like elsewhere.

Other than when the temperature hit 85 degrees on June 16, there were no extremely warm days, but with June, July and August having a higher number than normal of sunny days in the upper 60s and 70s, it made for a pleasant summer. Rainfall was also less than normal for those months.

jpg Ketchikan Public Library

Ketchikan Public Library
Photo courtesy Ketchikan Public Library

On the other end of the spectrum, Ketchikan enjoyed 50 consecutive days of precipitation between mid January and early March. Yet no arks were built.

When additional heavy rains finally came toward the end of the year, a week like December 10th to 16th in which nearly 16 inches of fell reminded us all that we do indeed live in a rain forest.

And, no, the 27.68 inches of rain Ketchikan received in December 2013 was not a record. In 2006, we got 31.56 inches in December. The all-time highest rainfall ever: 53.85 inches in November of 1917. Quit yer whining.

Overall, the 151 inches of rain Ketchikan received in 2013 was just about average.

There were a variety of other not quite top stories in Ketchikan in 2013.

jpg ongass Historical Museum

Tongass Historical Museum took over entire Centennial Building
Photo courtesy City of Ketchikan

Two new public facilities opened up in Ketchikan in 2013. The long awaited Ketchikan Public Library building opened on January 2. Attendance was up for most of the year as residents marveled over the $12 million, 16,250 square foot building and its spectacular views of Bear Valley and Deer Mountain.

The Tongass Historical Museum took over the entire Centennial Building, which had been shared with the library for the last four decades. But issues almost immediately arose over to how, or whether, to renovate the Centennial Building to meet the current and future needs. Two small fires and a leaking roof forced the City to move toward some short-term repairs at year’s end.

jpg Shane White Memorial Skate Park

Shane White Memorial Skate Park
Photograph courtesy Ketchikan Youth Initiatives

Advocates of a skate park in Ketchikan saw their decades long wish come true when the Shane White Skate Park opened up shortly before the end of the year. The park, adjacent to Schoenbar Middle School and Ketchikan Creek, was built using $150,000 in Ketchikan Gateway Borough funding and a public land donation as well as private fundraising and a grant from the White family.

The local economy hummed along with the number of cruise passengers hitting a new record at just over 960,000, an increase of 20,000 over the previous record set before the recession in 2008. The sunny summer weather also led to generally higher receipts for local businesses.

The Ketchikan shipyard also reached a milestone when it completed the Arctic Prowler, an 138-foot longliner that was the largest fishing boat ever built in Alaska and the first large commercial fishing boat built in Ketchikan in decades.

jpg Arctic Prowler

Arctic Prowler
Photograph by Carl Thompson ©2013

On the fishing front, nearly 90 million pink salmon returned to Southeast in 2013, the largest ever return.

Longtime local oil distributor Anderes Oil was purchased by Crowley Maritime.

Work began on the Whitman Lake hydro facility in 2013. But even before the $17 million dollar project is completed, the community is moving ahead to secure funding to increase the dam at Swan Lake for additional hydro power. Several local groups are also exploring additional biofuel power and heat generators for the community.

Ketchikan residents were surprised to feel a significant moving of the earth on January 4. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake 60 miles west of Craig shook the region. Damage was light, a fiber-optic cable near Wrangell was damaged, but a tsunami alert was generated, only a couple of months after a similar quake in the Queen Charlottes also generated a tidal wave alert. Scientists say the two quakes were related.

jpg Ketchikan became the new world record holder in 2013  of World's Largest Rainboot Race

Ketchikan became the new world record holder in 2013
of World's Largest Rainboot Race
Photograph by Charles Haberbush ©2013

Later in the year, in May, residents near the Third Avenue Bypass reported another significant rumbling, but in this case it was the footfalls of nearly 2,000 rain boot shod runners taking part in Ketchikan’s second attempt to set a world record for largest rain boot race. When the number of participants was certified by Guinness at 1,976, Ketchikan became the new world record holder.

Hospitals old and new were in the news in 2013. In October, City voters approved a $43 million bond package for a significant renovation to the Ketchikan General Hospital complex, which was built in 1964. (Today, known as the PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.)

jpg Proposed Project: PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center

Proposed Project: PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center
More Project Information
Graphic courtesy NAC ARchitecture

Meanwhile, the long time wrangling over who was responsible for the derelict former hospital building on Bawden Street finally came to head as the City of Ketchikan had the building torn down at a cost of more than $650,000. The City is continuing to try to get reimbursement from the previous building owners and in the meantime the site remains vacant.

jpg The derelict former Ketchikan hospital building on Bawden Street

The derelict former Ketchikan hospital building on Bawden Street
Photograph by Ken Arriola ©2013

A group of Schoenbar students proved to be smarter than their teachers in an unfortunate way. After phishing for passwords through teachers’ email accounts, they gained access to off limit sections of the school computer systems. Changes were made to some student accounts, but no significant information was compromised, according to school officials.

In more positive education news, two local schools, Tongass School of the Arts and Point Higgins Elementary School were named national blue ribbon schools.

In political news, Metlakatla celebrated its 126th birthday by electing its first female Mayor, Audrey Hudson edged out Karl Cook by 11 votes in November.

Also in Metlakatla news, a Ketchikan jury found William Buxton guilty of murder in the slaying of his aunt. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

In Ketchikan political news, Judy Zenge and Matt Olsen were elected to seats on the City Council. Councilmember Sam Bergeron resigned his seat and was replaced by Russell Wodehouse. Wodehouse resigned ten days later. The council was expected to name his replacement early in January.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough celebrated its 50th Anniversary in October. Alan Bailey and Bill Rotecki were re-elected to seats on the Borough Assembly.  Bailey was found to have violated the Borough ethics law when he failed to disclose that his son worked for the City’s emergency dispatch service during a debate over borough funding of dispatch. The ethics board suggested that Bailey make a presentation on ethics law to other elected officials.

The Assembly also moved forward with a potential lawsuit over state education funding. The body approved spending $150,000 to begin the preliminary paperwork to force the state to live up to its constitutional mandate to fund all of educational basic need and not require organized boroughs to share a portion of the costs.

jpg Ketchikan’s Angie Taggart completed her second Iditarod Sled race in 2013.

Ketchikan’s Angie Taggart completed her second Iditarod Sled race in 2013.
Photo courtesy Angie Taggart

In sports, Ketchikan’s Angie Taggart completed her second Iditarod Sled race in 2013. The Craig High girls basketball team won the State 2A championship and the Klawock High boys team won the State 1A championship. Thorne Bay’s 152 pound Luther Jensen became the first Thorne Bay student to win a state high school wrestling championship.

Weather superlatives (statistics courtesy of the National Weather Service)

Total rainfall – 2013 – 151.37 inches

Wettest days

Sept. 19 – 5.13 inches
Dec. 11 – 5.04 inches
Nov. 27 – 4.39 inches
Oct. 6 – 3.92 inches
May 1 – 3.68 inches
Jan. 2 – 3.61 inches

Wettest week – 15.66 inches, 12/10-12/16

Most consecutive days of precipitation: 50. January 12 to March 2
Most consecutive days of non-precipitation: 7. May 4 to May 10 and July 27 to Aug 2

Warmest day, 85 degrees, June 16
Coldest day, 17 degrees, Nov. 17

Windiest gust – 56 mph Oct. 3
Windiest day – 21.9 mph avg, Nov. 22

Total days of precipitation in 2013 – 274

Both September 19 (5.13 inches) and December 11 (5.04 inches) qualify as the wettest all time for those dates in history, but neither cracks the top 50 for all time wettest Ketchikan days.

For comparison, Los Angeles received 3.60 inches of precipitation in 2013, an all-time record for the least amount. Ketchikan had five different days with more precipitation than that in 2013.

At 85 degrees, June 16 was the warmest June 16 in Ketchikan history.


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Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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Dave Kiffer ©2014


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Ketchikan, Alaska

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