Juneau's mountain gypsy

Letter to the editor

Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Twenty-four years ago, my wife-to-be and I motored up Gastineau Channel in our seine boat to find a new home in Juneau. I had been to Juneau twice before and was attracted here by the moderate winter climate, the ski area and the salt water boat harbor; it was perfect.

It was a beautiful late summer day. I commented to Jill, "I know where we won't be living," pointing to the deciduous slide zone above Behrends Avenue. I must say that I was a bit miffed at the development below. Needless to say we bought in a different neighborhood.

In a recent Empire article (Jan. 2), local avalanche expert Bill Glude was quoted, and one neighborhood homeowner expressed concern for Bill's comments (letters to the editor, Jan. 6). I have two things to say to this homeowner: Denial about this problem will kill people and hey ... look up once in a while. The threat is real and dealing with it is a necessity.

The experts all agree that it is not a matter of if, but when the next slide will occur. This is a problem this entire community shares and any of us may be in the line of fire.

Contrary to the Listons' opinions, Bill is a positive asset to this community and most likely the person who will call the potential of a pending occurrence before it happens. Bill and many of the people he has trained over the years will be among the first responders and Bill will be the one assessing further threats of instability on the mountains above for the safety of the rescuers below. He is the one we trust.

There is an ilk of fishermen in on South Surin Island in Thailand known as the Morgan Sea Gypsies. Elders among them possessed the lore of their ancestors that "if the sea recedes fast, it will reappear in the same quantity in which it disappeared." After the earthquake, while other Thai people were out gathering up stranded fish, the Sea Gypsies gathered up their people and fled to a temple in the mountains.

The point is that there were people among the Sea Gypsies that possessed the knowledge that saved the entire village. Bill Glude is the mountain gypsy among us that may someday be saving lives here.

Scott McAllister


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