Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Sunday, January 09, 2005

Residents say they saw meteor

JUNEAU - Some Juneau residents saw a fiery ball traversing the sky at about 7:45 a.m. Friday.

Apparently, it was a meteor. The comet Machholz has been visible with the naked eye recently, but it would be just a fuzzy, small light even with a telescope, astronomy buffs said.

Karen Ross said she saw the light to the north as she was driving north on Egan Drive near the Pioneers' Home. The light was large enough that she thought at first it could be an airplane about to crash.

"I see this big ball of light coming down," she said. "There were flashes of green and red. It was really colorful. The sky was clear. It was gorgeous."

Ross said the light was huge and round. It streaked quickly from the west to the east in a steep downward arc, and soon wasn't visible behind the mountains. There was a little trail of light behind it, she said.

KINY Radio reported hearing from a Yakutat man who saw it. The light wasn't noticed at the U.S. customs station in Haines or reported to the mounties in Whitehorse, those agencies said.

Meteors are pieces of rock or space debris that enter the Earth's atmosphere, heat up from the friction, and become visible. Meteors often are called falling stars or shooting stars. If the debris hits the Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Power outage strikes city Friday

JUNEAU - A 90-minute power outage Friday night clammed up Shakespeare and knocked out some cable television boxes and Internet access into Saturday at least.

The outage, which began at 8:35 p.m., affected all of Douglas Island and the highlands near Juneau-Douglas High School from 12th Street to Ross Way, including Aurora and Harris harbors, said AEL&P spokeswoman Gayle Wood.

A voltage regulator in the West Juneau substation broke, she said.

As with other outages, the drop in voltage when an outage is beginning and the surge of power when it's restored can affect electronics such as the boxes that bring cable TV into homes, Wood said.

Douglas residents said some of the cable service was restored by calling provider GCI on the phone, and in other cases customers exchanged boxes at the company's office.

A GCI spokesperson wasn't available for comment Saturday.

The outage also put an early end to a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Perseverance Theatre. Patrons were given vouchers for free tickets to another performance.

Gotta have that car

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks woman has her car back after it was stolen twice in one week.

Janet Snider's 1992 green four-door Toyota Corolla had dents, oil leaks, frozen groceries and her 4-year-old daughter's shoes dangling in the window.

The well-used car had cardboard beer cartons for a grill, a dim right rear brake light, and a broken gas cap door. It was uninsured and seven months behind on its registration, but it still proved irresistible to a thief.

Snider, 26, initially lost her car New Year's Eve. She started it at seven minutes before midnight to warm it up before the end of her shift at a gas station. Two minutes later it was gone.

The car was found Monday on a side street a few miles away. Snider's fiancé, James Lawrence, 33, went to claim the car so troopers wouldn't impound it. But he was unable to stay until a tow truck arrived.

When the tow truck driver went to retrieve the vehicle at 7 p.m., it was gone again, Lawrence said.

On Wednesday troopers said the Corolla had been found. The Corolla now is being guarded by junk yard dogs at a salvage yard.

Lawrence is offering two homemade cheesecakes to the woman who called troopers.

"We don't have enough money to scrape up a reward," he said.

They're saving their money for another matter. Lawrence and Snider are to be married today.

Wolf killing slow so far in predator program

FAIRBANKS - Bad weather, little daylight and lack of snow have conspired to frustrate hunters participating in the state's aerial wolf control programs.

The harvest as of Friday in four regions open to aerial wolf hunting was 51 wolves, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Pilot-gunner teams have reported taking 21 wolves in the Nelchina Basin, 25 west of Cook Inlet and five near McGrath. No wolves have been killed in the central Kuskokwim River area.

Last year marked the first time in 10 years Alaska officials allowed a lethal wolf control program, and hunters reported killing 144 wolves.

The Alaska Board of Game expanded the program last spring. State officials plan to begin a fifth predator reduction program near Tok soon.

The goal is to reduce the number of the wolves in the five regions by about 500 to help boost moose and caribou herds for hunters.

Oil commission fines BP

ANCHORAGE - BP has agreed to pay civil fines totaling nearly $1.4 million for two safety violations in the Prudhoe Bay oil field, including a 2002 well explosion that badly injured an Anchorage man.

The amount to be paid in the incident that injured employee Don Shugak, almost $1.3 million, is one of the largest penalties the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has levied against an oil company.

The second incident drew a $102,500 fine.

The three-member commission originally had proposed a fine of more than $2.5 million against BP for the Aug. 16, 2002, explosion and fire at Prudhoe Bay well A-22.

The well, which was prone to excessive pressure buildup, blew up just as field operator Shugak was opening the door of the metal building housing the well. Shugak spent months in a Seattle hospital for treatment of burns, broken bones and other injuries.

The commission found that pressure buildup caused an underground steel casing to split open. It criticized BP for seeming to tolerate wells with dangerously high pressure levels and emphasizing oil production over shutting down and fixing faulty wells.

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