SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

2021 Year in Review

COVID keeps its ‘grippe’ on Ketchikan tourism


January 01, 2022
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Forget Groundhog Day, 2021 was Groundhog Year with a second successive cancellation of the majority of the cruise ship season because of COVID 19 concerns and the Canadian extension of a ban of cruise ship operations in its waters.

Some cruise ships did visit Ketchikan before the end of the season, but visitation was down more than 90 percent compared to 2019. Independent tourist visitation was up, but the percent of cruise passengers that arrived in 2021 was slightly more than 100,000, about 8.6 percent of what it was 2019.

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The good news was that Ketchikan and Alaska were at the vanguard of distribution of COVID 19 vaccines, when vaccination was open to all adults beginning in mid-March. Alaska was the first state to open vaccination to all adults. By the end of the year, approximately 65 percent of Ketchikan residents had received vaccinations.

Unfortunately, the so called “Delta Variant” hit Ketchikan hard in the late summer, causing a large spike in cases and six additional deaths, including five at the Ketchikan Pioneer’s Home and two in the hospital’s long term care unit. By the end of the year, 15 Ketchikan residents had died of COVID 19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Thirteen of those deaths occurred in 2021, according to state health officials.

At the end of the year, the Omicron variant was hitting cruise voyages hard in other parts of the world, raising concerns that 2022 might not be the comeback year that many were hoping for.

The other major story in 2021 was the tragedy that hit the First City in the summer when a flightseeing plane crashed leaving Misty Fjords, killing the pilot and five passengers in early August.


Maybe it was an omen, but numerous residents reported seeing a bright light, thought to be a meteor, sailing over Gravina Island, shortly after dark on New Year’s Eve. After the year that 2020 was, everyone hoped it was a good sign.

Nicholas Burbary, 41, and Madalyn Carraway, 5, were identified as the victims of a fatal house fire on Denali Avenue on Dec. 30.

On New Year’s Eve, Charan “Birdie” Bird, 72, was struck by a truck while crossing Tongass Avenue near A and P. She died in Seattle four days later.

Between 100 and 200 vehicles took part in a parade and rally In Ketchikan that was dubbed a “Patriot’s Parade.”

The Borough Assembly blazed through its first meeting on the year in 23 minutes. It was the briefest regular assembly meeting in four years.

Ketchikan’s first baby of the year was Eli Turner born on January 6 to parents Desiray and Joshua Turner.

Crowley Fuels was fined $1.3 million by the EPA for violating regulations at its Alaskan facilities, including nearly 40 violations at its operations in Ketchikan.

Once again, the weather was a little different on different sides of the Tongass Narrows. Several wind storms blew through the community in early January. The highest recorded winds at the airport were 60 mph, but winds above 80 mph were recorded at Salmon Landing near Thomas Basin.

Ketchikan School superintendent Beth Lougee took a leave of absence after her husband, David, a superintendent in Chevak, died of COVID 19 at the Ketchikan hospital. A month later, Beth Lougee was hospitalized with COVID 19 and medivaced to Seattle. Lougee returned to work in March but then announced she was resigning in April. Melissa Johnson replaced her for the rest of 2021.

Petro Marine announced that was buying competitor Crowley Fuels. Crowley had previously purchased Anderes Oil in 2013.

Sealaska announced that it was transitioning out the timber industry into other areas and would be closing down Ketchikan-based Sealaska Timber later in 2021. Sealaska Timber had been major economic force for the regional Native corporation for more than 40 years.

The Race to Alaska event for 2021 was cancelled.

Chuck Denny and Dennis Spurgeon were honored by the borough for more than 40 years with the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department.

Kayhi senior Robert Cope-Powell was selected to the 260-member All-National Honor Choir Ensemble.

Gloria Burns, Trixie Bennett and Marcie Fields were elected to the Ketchikan Indian Community’s Tribal Council.

A house was destroyed by a fire in Forest Park after stove ashes were left in a cardboard box. The family members escaped the blaze.

Nearly 70 wolves were trapped during the 21-day wolf trapping season on Prince of Wales Island.

An Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Ketchikan was delayed when a passenger was arrested after phoning in a threat to the plane.

A Cessna 170 flying from Ketchikan to Port Angeles crashed offshore of Port Angeles. The pilot, from Kodiak, was presumed dead. NTSB officials later said the plane most likely ran out of gas because the distance was outside the Cessna’s normal flight range.


Canadian officials announced that the COVID 19 related cruise ship ban instituted in 2020 would continue until February of 2022, potentially preventing the 2021 cruise ship season in Southeast Alaska. The ban applied to all ships with more than 100 passengers wishing to transit Canadian waters.

NTSB officials said that it appeared that a sudden shift in wind direction could have been a factor in a fatal plane crash near Metlakatla in May of 2019. Officials say that the wind shift could have caused the Beaver to be landing downwind rather than the preferred upwind. The pilot and passenger, Ron Rash and Sara Luna, were killed when the plane flipped over near the Metlakatla seaplane base. It was Luna’s first ride in a float plane. She was an epidemiologist on a work trip.

Tlingit master carver Nathan Jackson was named a United States Artist Fellow and awarded $50,000 by United States Artists of Chicago. In 2020, Delores Churchill of Ketchikan was awarded a similar fellowship.

The Tatsuda family announced that it was not going to rebuild the store that was destroyed by a landslide nearly a year before, ending 114 years in the Ketchikan grocery business.

Kayhi senior Henry Clark was named the Alaska Drama, Debate and Forensics Student of the Year, the first time a Ketchikan student had been so honored. Overall, the KHS DDF team finished second at the state tournament.

Naomi Michelsen’s “Kaaesi Training and Consulting” was one of two Alaska winners of $25,000 from the Spruce Root Path to Prosperity program. Kaasei was one of 11 finalists in the program which encourages small Alaska start-up businesses.

Dr. Ernie Meloche received a grand send off from more than 50 people when he retired after 32 years of service in the Ketchikan Medical Center emergency room.


Ketchikan came to a screaming halt just a day before “Spring Ahead” when some 20 inches of snow came down overnight on March 13. It was the largest one-day total since 2008. Three boats sank in the harbors from the weight of the snow and there were two serious car crashes. One car lost control coming down the hill from Cape Fox and smashed into Ketchikan Creek, but the driver wasn’t injured. Unfortunately, Mike Vig was not as lucky when his car crashed through a barrier and went over a cliff above A and P. Vig was medivaced and later died of his injuries.

The state of Alaska announced that it was selling the fast ferries Fairweather and Chenega to a Spanish company for $5 million. The ferries had been laid up in Ward Cove for the past several years because they were too expensive to operate. Overall, the state ferry system would be in a state of limbo for much of 2021. Budget cuts limited service to most of the communities and breakdowns of the aging fleet further cut the schedule. But the was hope because by the end of the year a new state board had been seated to plan for the system’s future and US. Sen. Lisa Murkowski got nearly $2 billion dollars for the marine highway in a new federal infrastructure bill.

Houghtaling Elementary School student Thierry Oyedeji won the Ketchikan school spelling bee for the third straight year. The winning word was c-h-a-u-f-f-e-u-r-s. Oyedeji ended up finishing ninth statewide.

The Ketchikan High School Academic Decathlon team finished third in the state tournament. The team from Craig won the state small school division.

US Forest Service forester Brock Martin was named the Ketchikan Federal Employee of the year.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced the results of the monitoring of bacteria levels in local waters during the summer of 2020. Despite the fact there was almost no cruise ship season, bacteria levels were still higher than allowed for activities like seafood consumption and swimming, meaning the community will have to look inward when it considers what is causing most of the high bacteria levels.

Longtime Ketchikan resident Stan Oaksmith became the first Southeast Alaska resident be awarded both the Wright Brothers Master Pilot and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic awards by the Federal Aviation Administration. Oaksmith was honored for his more than 50 years as a pilot and mechanic. Oaksmith flew for Simpson Air Service, Ellis Airlines and Ketchikan Pulp Company. He was also a commercial helicopter pilot as well.

The Ketchikan High School girls basketball team won the Region V title and qualified for the state tournament. The boys team finished second in the region and also qualified for the state tournament.

Kayhi Senior Evelyn Nutt was named Alaska’s Distinguished Young Woman. Kayhi’s Morgan Elerding was first alternative.


Ketchikan Police Chief Joe White announced he would retire in June after four years as chief and 25 years with the department.

A man died in a house fire in Metlakatla. Officials said that Joshua Maxey, 36, had returned into the burning house to rescue a dog.

Len Laurance, considered by many to be the “father” of the local tourism industry, died at 88.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that it had awarded an $18 million contract to an Anchorage firm to build a new dock facility on Stedman Street for the homeport of the NOAA ship Fairweather.

Police were investigating several cases of racist and Nazi graffiti that appeared near the Schoenbar Trail and the South Tongass Highway.

A preliminary report on the float plane crash that killed seven people in George Inlet in 2019 indicated that the two planes that collided would not have been able to see each other before it was too late because of blind spots. The report based part of its findings on a photograph taken about a second before the collision that was recovered from a camera in the wreckage. It also determined that some safety equipment that could have prevented the crash was likely not operating at the time.

Ken Lewis retired after 41 years of captaining the airport ferry on its quarter-mile runs between Revilla and Gravina islands. It is estimated that Lewis made the trip some 300,000 times.

Kayhi student Julia Spigai was selected for the All Northwest Honor Band. She plays clarinet.

Governor Dunleavy made a visit to the First City to talk about COVID, tourism and the ferry system. He also made a side trip to Hyder, quite possibly the first time that an Alaskan Governor had ever visited the isolated community near the Canadian border.


Ketchikan experienced its biggest COVID 19 outbreak to date in late April and early May. In one seven-day period there were more than 120 positive cases and many local events were cancelled and the city was placed on “high alert,” its highest level, with a positivity rate of more than 6 percent. The outbreak began with a pair of high school events and then was spread quickly by people returning from trips outside. Nearly all the positive cases were in people who had not been vaccinated. The local COVID positivity level would remain high through the first week of June.

During the height of the outbreak, Metlakatla locked down to outside visitors and limited community activities.

An Uncruise ship, the Wilderness Legacy with 55 passengers, had planned a mid-May stop in Ketchikan but that stop was cancelled because of the COVID outbreak.

Ketchikan High School graduation was held in person, but no guests were allowed in the Kayhi Gymnasium. Parents held a downtown dock walk for the graduates. The graduation class numbered 130. Evelyn Nutt was the valedictorian and Morgan Elerding was the salutatorian. State Representative and former Kayhi teacher Dan Ortiz was the commencement speaker. Revilla High had 25 graduates this year.

Autumn Yoder won the Alaska “Doodle for Google” contest and entered the national contest.

Officials announced that for the first time in since 2017 there would be a King Salmon Derby in 2021. Then, after consulting with the state Fish and Game department over expected salmon returns, the derby was canceled.

Representatives from several cruise lines announced a limited ship schedule for Southeast beginning in July. Most days Ketchikan would get a single ship, rather than the four or five it would normally get. The industry also got a boost when the federal government passed a short-term bill that would allow cruise ships to visit Alaska without having to stop in Canada on the way up from Seattle.

Kayhi runner Rachel Knight was the state champion in the 400-meter dash in the state track and field tourney in Anchorage.

The Kayhi wrestlers continued their decade long domination of Southeast with 10 wrestlers winning regional titles. Degan Linne went on to finish second in the 140-pound division at the state meet.

The Kayhi Girls softball team won the Region V Championship.

US News and World Report ranked Kayhi as the 11th best high school in Alaska out of 77. Petersburg was ranked the highest.


After first announcing COVID-related capacity restrictions for the Fourth of July parade, the Chamber of Commerce reversed course and announced the parade would go on as normal. The decision coincided with community risk levels dropping from high to low in a matter of weeks.

Former Revilla High School Principal Doug Gregg was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the School Board.

Ketchikan’s attention turned toward Eugene, Oregon as Ketchikan “kid” Isaac Updike was one of the favorites to make the US Olympic team in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Updike posted the fastest qualifying time in the Olympic trials but came up two seconds short of the being the first Ketchikan resident to take part in the Summer Olympics.

The Red Zed 1, a giant ship-carrying ship that had been parked outside of Ward Cove for nearly two months, finally loaded up the state fast ferries Chenega and Fairweather for their trip to Spain where they will join a Spanish ferry company. The state sold them for $5 million.


Ketchikan experienced a more traditional Fourth of July holiday with a full-sized parade, booths and other events. Jan Ross was the parade grand marshall.

Emilio Torres, a Kayhi graduate who attended New York University film school, spent a week in the first city filming “The Ladder” a short film based in Ketchikan and featuring an all-local cast.

On July 9, the first large cruise ship, the Serenade of the Seas, arrived in Ketchikan on a test voyage from Seattle with 300 passengers and 800 crew members. It was the first large ship since the end of the 2019 season.

Gary Freitag, longtime local ocean sciences teacher and sea grant marine program agent, retired after 44 years.

Miska, an orphan black bear cub that was trapped in Ketchikan in September of 2020 was relocated to a permanent home at the Ochsner Park Zoo in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The cub at also spent some time at the Alaska Zoo.

After 35 years, Mark Flora put away his wrenches as the owner of All American Auto.
Jim Wingren, a lifelong Ketchikan resident and his wife Connie, a 50-year resident left Ketchikan to be closer to family down south. The former Citizens of the Year were also “Santa and Mrs. Clause” for decades.

Residents streamed Nertflix at the end of the month to watch the second season of “Outer Banks,” a TV drama that features Ketchikan resident Rudy Pankow.


The Delta Variant hit Ketchikan in late July causing a spike in cases through the middle of August. More than 200 cases were recorded pushing the total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic to nearly 1,000. The first week of August proved to be particularly heartbreaking when it was reported that six residents had died from COVID 19 included five residents of the Pioneers Home.

The Blueberry Festival was held the first week in August after being cancelled in 2020. Dock Street, Main Street and Mission Street were closed to allow the booths to be set up out of doors rather inside the State Office Building parking garage as in the past.

A Craig logger was killed in an accident near Ratz Harbor on Aug. 5. Officials say that Reginald Watt, 46, was struck by a log that fell off a trailer.

KFD Fire Chief Abner Hoage announced his retirement. Hoage had also served for the past year as the commander of the Ketchikan Emergency Operations Center, the main group that tackled the COVID outbreak in the community.

The Ketchikan City Council approved a new 20-year-lease with PeaceHealth for the operation for the operation of the Ketchikan General Hospital. The lease has two 10-year options.

More than 40 runners competed in the Karen Eakes Fun Run at Ward Lake.

The school board created a new position for the upcoming year, COVID Communications Director, as it hoped to do a better job of keeping parents and the community in the loop about COVID issues in 2021-22. High School assistant principal Linnaea Troina was tapped for the position.

The first Norwegian Cruise Line ships began using the dock at the Mill at Ward Cove, heralding a major move to redevelop the former site of the Ketchikan Pulp Mill which closed in 1997.

On August 5, a Southeast Aviation Beaver crashed into Painted Peak near Shoal Cove, killing the pilot Rolf Lazendorfer, 64, and five passengers, Mark Henderson, 69, Jacquelyn Komplin, 60, Andreda McArthur, 55, Rachel McArthur, 20 and Janet Kroll, 77, all from the Nieuw Amsterdam cruise ship.

A group of Prince of Wales Island residents helped a young, 20-foot killer whale survive after it was stranded on area beach. The residents sprayed water on the whale until the rising tide allowed it swim free. Pictures and videos of the event made national news.

Libby Oaksmith, the manager of the Pioneer Café, died in August after of cancer. Local residents had bound together during her illness, even staging a full-sized carnival on Berth 4 to raise money for her medical expenses.

The Alaska Marine Highway announced that it planned to go back to serving Prince Rupert in the summer of 2022. Service had been stopped in late 2019 when the two countries disagreed over customs procedures.

Evan Raber was the only runner to reach the top of Deer Mountain in less than an hour in the 2021 Deer Mountain Climbing Challenge. Raber topped eight other competitors with a time of 58 minutes and 21 seconds.

Ground was broken for the construction of a new dock for the NOAA ship, Fairweather. The facility will be completed in 2022.

City manager Karl Amylon retired after 26 years as the Ketchikan manager. He died several weeks later after a long battle with cancer. Deputy Manager Lacey Simpson was appointed acting manager.


Ketchikan experienced another COVID 19 surge. The active count reached an all time high of 130 in the second week of the month. Covid number would remain high through the end of the year.

The state redistricting committee met in Ketchikan. Some early proposed maps would have put Saxman and South Tongass in a different legislative district than Ketchikan, but after complaints from local officials the final proposal kept Saxman and South Tongass in the Ketchikan House District, which will go back to being called District One, which was what it was called for decades before it was changed to District 36 in 2010.


Kayhi’s Mickey Lapinski won the Region 5 4A Cross-country title.

Local elections were held borough voters overwhelming approved a proposal to bond $6.6 million to improve baseball and softball fields in Ketchikan and also approved extending a sales tax on marijuana sales. Jaimie Palmer and Grant Echohawk were elected to seats on the borough assembly. Stephen Bradford, Nicole Anderson and Keenan Sanderson were elected to seats on the school board. Janalee Gage and Jai Mahtani were elected to seats on the City Council. Dave Kiffer ran unopposed for City Mayor. Approximately 17 percent of the voters in the borough turned out.

Saxman announced that it was negotiating with a Wasilla-based store chain, Three Bears, to build a new full-sized grocery store on the Saxman Seaport property.

Ketchikan held its first annual Filipino-American Festival at the mall. More than 600 people attended the event.

Women in Safe Homes celebrated the opening of its new shelter. The shelter was funded by a grant that allowed WISH to renovate the former Ketchikan residential youth detention center that had been closed for several years.


Longtime Craig city administrator Jon Bolling retired early in the month. Bolling had been the administrator since 2003.

Albert Smith was elected the Mayor of Metlakatla.

Agnes Moran was named citizen of the year by the Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce. Moran spearheaded the renovation of the new WISH shelter and also the expansion of the Overnight Warming Shelter and the homeless day shelter.

Arnold Natkong was arrested after allegedly robbing a local credit union. Officials say that he presented a teller at the bank with a note demanding $300.

The community suffered another COVID spike in mid-November that some attributed to a rash of Halloween parties shortly before. There were more than 175 new cases, including 50 in one day. Nine people were hospitalized locally. Three Ketchikan residents died of COVID in November, pushing the total number of local deaths to 15.

Storm damage in British Columbia caused some interruptions in local internet service, as the internet lines come through Canada..

Longtime Ketchikan resident Ernie DeBoer celebrated his 100th birthday.

After listening to hours of public comment, both for and against masking mandates, the school board altered the masking policy to make masks optional for older students at all but the highest risk level.

Lallette Kistler was tapped to replace Dave Kiffer on the City Council. Kiffer had been elected mayor the month before.


Isaac Henderson, 18, of Metlakatla, was charged with First Degree Murder after allegedly shooting his brother Tyler during an argument.

Jeffrey Walls, a division commander from New Orleans, was picked to be the new Ketchikan police chief.

Due to COVID 19 scheduling, the Kayhi wrestling team was able to win two SE titles in the same year. In the December tourney Kayhi had eight regional champions. Kollin Houhoofd was named outstanding wrestler for the region.

Craig High School music director Rachael Balcom was selected to perform in a music educators marching band in the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day. Balcom plays tenor saxophone.

Kayhi graduate Robert Cope-Powell was awarded the Eagle Scout rank by the Boy Scouts of America.

The Clark Cochrane Christmas Basketball Christmas Classic returned after being cancelled in 2021. The Kayhi girls team won its division, the boys team finished fifth.

RIP 2020

James Burnette, 71, owner of Mike’s Auto Lab and ferry engineer, Sept. 26

MaryAnn Shull French, 69, former Ketchikan resident, Nov. 30

Brandon Larson, 34, 30-year Ketchikan resident, Dec. 11

Richard Hudson Jr., 51, longtime Metlakatla boat fixer and “fiberglass man,” Dec. 12

Elizabeth Ann Ketah, 82, 50-year Ketchikan resident, Dec. 14

George Mood, 87, longtime local electrician and charter boat operator, Dec. 14

Ron Altman, 61, longtime mechanic at Timber and Marine and former salmon derby winner, Dec. 17

Cecil “Dave” Davis, 96, pilot of the “City of Ketchikan” B-29 in WW II, Dec. 18

Jason Takenouchi, 45, former Ketchikan fisherman and blown glass artist, Dec. 22

Ernestine Blair, 86, 80-year Saxman resident, Dec. 23

Frank Hayward, 80, lifelong Metlakatla fisherman and carpenter, Dec. 24

Larry Kubley, 79, lifelong Ketchikan resident and former Sourdough Bar owner, Dec. 26

Ronald Markiewicz, 74, longtime KPU lineman, Dec. 27

Lee Farstad, 71, longtime Ketchikan resident, Dec. 29

Jackie Bredehoft, 76, 40-year resident of Ketchikan/Hollis and master quilter, Dec. 30

RIP 2021

Susie Blandov, 84, longtime Metlakatla resident, Jan. 2

Karen DeBoer Dixon, 76, former Ketchikan resident and lifelong musician, Jan. 3

Judy Brownhall, 79, hostel housemother, Jan 3.

Charan “Birdie” Bird, 72, local activist for those with disabilities, Jan. 4

Mary Ann Lindemann, 75, longtime local medical worker and near lifelong resident, Jan. 8

Florence “Jean” Minicucci, 97, longtime Ketchikan nurse, Jan. 16

Lana “Ginger” Fortin, 78, 20-year Ketchikan resident, Jan.18

Joan Cloudy Banta. 93, former Ketchikan resident, Jan. 19

Rachel Heitman, 30, 27-year Ketchikan resident, Jan. 20

Richard “Too Tall” Summers, 66, 30-year Craig resident, Jan. 21

Judy Ann (Atkinson) Hudson, 77, longtime Metlakatla resident, Jan. 21

Aura “Shirley” Brown, 73, former Craig and Ketchikan resident, Jan 24

John Mobley, 84, longtime Ketchikan Public Utilities employee, Jan. 25

Dustin Willard, 33, lifelong resident and Burger King burger flipper extraordinaire, Jan. 28

Janel Pyle, 65, local artist, musician and radio voice, Feb. 1

Ray Woodard Jr, 64, longtime PeaceHealth employee, Feb. 1

Barbara Richter, 78, longtime Naukati resident, Feb. 2

Jack Falzarano, 64, half century Ketchikan resident and Harley rider, Feb. 2

Amelia “Jay” Dilworth, 80, a 58-year Prince of Wales resident, Feb, 6

Melissa Withers, 68, former Ketchikan nurse, Feb. 6

Evelyn Guthrie, 78, lifelong Metlakatla resident and cake artist, Feb. 16.

Larry Romero, 68, former Ketchikan resident, Feb. 22

Andy Smith, 59, lifelong resident and Native carver, Feb, 23

Fernando Roma, 85, 31-year Ketchikan resident, Feb. 23

Les Hiatt, 86, Ketchikan teacher of the year, March 3

Lorena Leask, 91, lifelong Metlakatla resident, March 10

Philip Beegle, 80, four-decade Ketchikan resident, March 11

Kathy Dunne, 66, 40-year Metlakatla resident, March 12

Marla Olsen, 79, 30-year Ketchikan resident, March 14

Gary Muehlberger, 75, longtime resident of Port Protection, March 17

Wes Loe, 74, the man of a million stories and the “Mayor” of Hyder, March 18

Michael Vig, 46, longtime Ketchikan resident, March 19

Major Polly Combs McCulley, 91, 60-year Salvation Army officer, March 23

Kurt Brodersen, 71, the ‘MacGyver’ of Union Bay, March 26

Nevin May, 84, longtime fisherman and co-founder of the Alaska Trollers Association, March 28

Larry Bryant, 65, lifelong resident, April 3

Toni Klinger, 73, 27-year Ketchikan resident, April 7

Len Laurance, 88, dean of the Ketchikan visitor industry, April 8

Jessica Leighton, 44, longtime Ketchikan resident, April 8

Shirley Boyd, 86, the ‘Queen of Shenanigans,’ April 10

Richard Schwehm, 61, longtime Metlakatla longshoreman, April 14

Larry Miller, 66, longtime commercial fisherman, April 16

Gwen McDonald, 63, longtime Ketchikan teacher, April 15

Frances Rhodes, 78, 45-year Ketchikan resident, April 22

Michael Lindgren, 65, longtime local tender captain, April 26

Colleen Florian Brown, 70, Ketchikan resident for nearly 60 years, May 1

Rich Brown, 65, former local Coast Guard civilian employee, May 3

Dr. James Mortensen, 90, longtime Ketchikan doctor, May 4

Frank Haldane, 94, longtime federal aviation employee. May 11

Carol Arriola, 68, 40-year resident of Ketchikan, May 16

William Ninemire, 77, longtime Craig resident, May 17

Ellen Yeisley Cowan, 87, Lifelong Ketchikan resident, May 18

Katherine Tibbles, 75, long time Ketchikan social worker, May 23

Leslie Jackson Sr., 74, fisherman and engineer, May 26

Krystal Whitesides, 23, lifelong Ketchikan resident, June 5

Annie Allain, 97, 80-year resident of Ketchikan, June 6

Jean McGilvray Barry, 98, 50-year resident and accomplished pianist, June 17

Librada ‘Ada” Buendia, 76, 30-year Ketchikan resident, June 18

Carolyn Leask, 68, granddaughter of the founders of Metlakatla, June 22

Christopher Williams, 42, a mortgage loan processor and Native drummer, June 25

Cecelia “Litzi” Botello, 62, 40-year Port Protection resident, June 25

Larry Johnson, 66, longtime resident, June 27

Jeffrey Purschwitz, 65, longtime city employee, June 30

Joanne Connolly, 77, longtime resident, July 1

Elizabeth Harrison, 45, longtime Ketchikan resident, July 2

Jimmy Sivertsen, 68, longtime resident, July 4

Timothy Sturgess, 70, former Coast Guardsman and Marine Highway employee, July 7

Ron Balzer, 69, 40-year resident of Ketchikan, July 10

Bruce Maldonado, 56, Prince of Wales resident, July 13

Rolf Hildre, 83, longtime area boater, July 28

James Bodding, 72, lifelong commercial fisherman, July 29

Geri Metcalf, 92, longtime Ketchikan hospital employee and volunteer, July 30

Dick Hamlin, 85, longtime Ketchikan teacher, pilot, outdoorsman and storyteller, Aug. 6

Mervin Haven, 88, longtime Metlakatla resident and owner of Haven Construction, Aug. 9

Roz Ellis, 85, longtime resident, Aug. 9

Phyllis Almquist, 95, Haida matriarch and language teacher, Aug. 11

Donald “Hobbs” Harbour, 92, local logging legend, Aug. 12

Libby Oaksmith, 46, lifelong resident and manager of the Pioneer Café, Aug. 13

Bonnie Marr, 89, lifelong Ketchikan resident, Aug. 14

Austin Dixon, 27, lifelong Ketchikan resident, Aug. 14

Conrad “Buddy” Boyd, 87, lifelong Southeast resident, Aug 15

Burt Colegrove, Jr. 71, longtime Klawock and Craig resident, Aug. 22

Ken Jeppson, longtime resident, Aug 23

Julia Peele, 74, longtime resident, Aug. 27

John “Woody” Woolley, 56, 33 year employee of Westside Service, Aug. 27

Mary Ann Armey, 80, longtime resident of Southern Southeast, Aug. 29

Barbara Chernikoff. 84, longtime Ketchikan teacher, Sept. 3

Wade Jardine, 58, longtime Ketchikan aviation mechanic, Sept. 4

Robert Linne, 86, half-century resident of Ketchikan, Sept. 6

Cathleen Taro, 71, longtime Ketchikan resident, Sept. 7

Amber Vasquez, 42, former Ketchikan pet store owner, Sept. 7

Joanne Alsup, 80, lifelong Ketchikan resident, Sept. 8

Carolyn Wilsie, 86, longtime job service employee as well as local “volunteer of the year,” Sept. 12

Karl Amylon, 66, longtime Ketchikan City Manager, Sept. 15

Margaret Hobart, 78, longtime cook for the ferry system and the pioneer’s home, Sept. 16

Irene “Louise” Collins, 94, former Ketchikan resident and president of the state League of Women Voters, Sept. 16

Carl Webb, 55, longtime Ketchikan truck driver, Sept. 17

Robert Wickman III, 58, lifelong resident of Wrangell and Ketchikan, Sept. 21

Carolyn Engel, 76, longtime Alaskan nurse, Sept. 22

Extry Sarff, 94, the poet of Prince of Wales Island, Sept. 23

Patrick “Mister” Moore, 58, former Ketchikan resident, Sept 23

Christina Mullenax, 87, longtime Ketchikan nurse, Sept. 25

Sharon Scherrer, 76, lifelong Southern Southeast resident, Sept. 30

Tam Murphy, 81, longtime local fisherman and longshoreman, Oct. 5

Mary Murphy, 98, former Ketchikan resident and teacher, Oct. 11.

Linda Amundson, 62, longtime local resident, Oct. 11

Shirley Eaklor, 86, longtime bartender for the Potlatch and the ferry system., Oct. 13

Jeremy Bethel, 30, lifelong resident, Oct. 16

Stacy Scovill, 52, longtime Ketchikan resident, Oct. 17

Raymond Cowan, 66, longtime resident, Oct. 19

Allyson Jardine, 71, 50 year Ketchikan resident, Oct. 21

Sharon Abbott. 76, former Ketchikan resident, Oct. 22

Eileen Lammers Peery, 38, lifelong local resident, Oct. 26

Elinore “Onnie” Jacobsen, 93, 40+ year local nurse and noted dining room table “lecturer,” Oct. 26

John Reese, 99, Tsimpshian elder and language bearer, Oct. 28

Barbara Mata, 54, longtime Metlakatla and Ketchikan resident, Nov. 1

Sandy Griffith, 96, 50-year Ketchikan poet/philosopher, Nov. 1

Jessie Coleman, 95, one of the first residents of Hollis and Thorne Bay, Nov. 1

Silas Fawcett Sr. 76, longtime resident of Metlakatla and Hydaburg, Nov. 4

Jacey Sargent, 35, longtime resident, Nov. 4

Evelyn Shields, 76, 60-year Saxman resident, Nov.10

Patricia Davidson, 99, co-owner of Davidson Logging, Nov. 9

Katherine “Sue” Myking, 74, longtime bus and taxi driver, Nov. 15

Betty Lou Baker, 90, former Forest Service employee, Nov. 16

Roy Trout, 80. Ketchikan’s #1 basketball fan, Nov. 17

Gregg Wilks, 56, longtime local logger, Nov 19

Melody Gabor, 61, Ketchikan nursing assistant. Nov. 19

Mildred Leask Newman, 89. Lifelong Ketchikan resident, Nov 22

Willi Johanssen, 82, longtime logger and home builder,, Nov. 26

Walter “DeWayne” Seufert, 84, former Forest Service employee, Nov. 27

Royce Ranninger, 80, pipefitter, fisherman, and purveyor of Volkswagons, Nov. 28

Jean Shephard, 85, Tlingit matriarch, Dec. 3

Margaret MacMillan Cool-Dole, 94, former Ketchikan resident and Miss Alaska, Dec. 6
Vera James, 48, lifelong Southeast resident and All Native Hall of Fame basketball player, Dec. 8

Howard Heath, 85, former Ketchikan shipyard employee, Dec. 8

Mamie “Toughy” Alexander 84, a lifelong Ketchikan resident, Dec. 13

Carl “Sopey” Soper, 32, lifelong Ketchikan resident, Dec. 13

Samuel Soderstrom, 76, longtime Ketchikan music teacher, Dec. 17

Bill Palmer, 97, longtime comptroller for Wingren and Hames grocery stores, Dec. 26


Ketchikan experienced a series of rainstorms at the beginning of January but more than two inches of snow arrived on Jan. 23 bringing a spate of clear cold weather that lasted into February. On February 9, the thermometer dropped to 6 degrees Fahrenheit. High winds pushed the windchill to near or below zero on several days. Snow remained on the ground for much of February and it was cold enough for skating on local ponds and lakes. On February 24, there was a blizzard with heavy winds - up to 60 mph - and parts of the community getting up to 10 inches of snow, but by the next day, rains had returned and most of the snow was gone.

Temperatures rose into the low 50s in early March, just In time for nearly two feet of snow to fall on the First City on March 13, the day before “Spring Ahead.”

Ketchikan also had a snowfall of nearly two inches on April 9. Then the weather whipsawed dramatically and on April 18, the temperature hit 72 degrees, the warmest April 18 on record, breaking a record of 64 set in 1934. Klawock’s temperature hit 75 on the 18tt. That was the earliest ay any station in Alaska had ever recorded a 75-degree temperature.

The next day, April 19, the temp in Ketchikan was 67 which topped the all-time daily temp of 64, also set in 1934. More than a week of sunshine followed leading residents to break out sun dresses and begin prepping their boats.

But the rains returned and on April 29, Ketchikan got 3.72 inches of rain, setting a new record for that date. The old record was 3.2 inches in 1914.

Ketchikan had a drier April and May than normal. Temperatures reached up into the 80s in the last week of June with several days, June 27 (80), 28 (82) and 29 (81) setting all time temperature records for those days.

Ketchikan had a drier July and August than the last few years, except for Aug. 4 which saw 5.26 inches, one of the wettest summer days in Ketchikan’s history.
Ketchikan experienced another 5 inch rain day on Sept. 25.

October came in like a lion with large storm hitting on October 1 with sustained winds of more than 60 mph and gusts above 100 mph at the airport. Surprisingly enough, there were only a couple of small power outtages.

October 1 was the first date with “termination dust” on Deer Mountain.

Another heavy storm raged through in late October. Hurricane force winds knocked down numerous trees in the area and power was out for some time.

After a few flurries around Thanksgiving, the first real snowfall, 3-5 inches, arrived in Ketchikan on December 4. A further snowfall of nearly 8 inches on December 17 pretty much guaranteed that Ketchikan would have a “white Christmas.”

On Christmas Day, the temp dropped to 0 degrees, by far the coldest day of the year and the coldest Christmas Day ever in Ketchikan. Dec. 26 also had a 0 degree reading as well.

For good measure, a final storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on Ketchikan on New Year’s Eve. Overall, December had nearly 30 inches of snow. Maybe not a record, but definitely getting there.

Of course, the only weather that Ketchikan really cares about is the rainfall. 2021 had 146 inches. A slightly above average amount.

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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 ©2022

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