Northwest Digest

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2006

Angoon memorial for missing boater

ANGOON - Kevin O'Brien, a former Angoon High School basketball coach who disappeared from his skiff near the community's boat harbor Jan. 1, will be remembered with ceremonies today and Saturday.

Friends, Angoon community members and others who helped searched for the 36-year-old man are invited to a thank-you dinner at 6 p.m. today at Angoon Elementary School. A memorial service will begin at the school at noon Saturday. It will end at the town floatplane dock with a ceremony saying goodbye with flowers and floating candles. The Lord's Prayer will be sung in Tlingit.

The community searched for O'Brien near the Admiralty Island community for about a week after his skiff was found on the beach with its engine running shortly before 5:30 p.m. Jan. 1. Searchers were first assisted by Alaska State Troopers and had help from Coast Guard helicopter crews. After the troopers suspended their search, volunteers with Angoon Search and Rescue continued the search but failed to find O'Brien.

Volcano threat level downgraded to orange

ANCHORAGE - The strength of Augustine Volcano's seismic rumblings on Thursday fell to pre-eruption levels a day after the mountain spewed ash clouds into the skies over Cook Inlet, but scientists still anticipate another eruption.

The diminishing earthquakes caused the Alaska Volcano Observatory to cautiously downgrade the volcano's threat level to code orange from code red. Orange means the volcano is restless and could likely erupt. Red, the highest alert level, is used when a volcano is erupting.

The observatory is still keeping a round-the-clock watch on the fitful stratovolcano, whose most recent eruption in 1986 choked the skies with ash and disrupted the state's major air routes.

"If we use the 1986 eruption as a guide, so far it seems to be following that pattern and we should see something larger," said Chris Weythomas, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The brief eruption Wednesday had sent an ash cloud five miles into the sky. It gave way to a roiling plume of white steam that rose about 11,000 feet above Augustine's uninhabited island.

Landing-gear door open on Alaska flight

SEATTLE - An Alaska Airlines passenger jet had to make an emergency return to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after a company mechanic apparently left a landing-gear door open, the company has acknowledged.

It happened on Wednesday afternoon, after the pilot of Flight 536 asked mechanics to fix a broken taxi landing light. The open door caused vibrations strong enough for passengers to take notice immediately after takeoff.

"The second the plane lifted off, it wasn't trying anything dramatic, but you could feel the resistance," Nick Block, 21, a passenger on the Burbank, Calif.-bound plane, told The Seattle Times.

The MD-80 jet landed safely at Sea-Tac at 4:36 p.m., 16 minutes after it departed, Alaska spokeswoman Amanda Tobin said.

State senator offers bill to ban bestiality

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Reacting to a story that drew gasps of horror across the country, a state senator is asking her colleagues to outlaw sex with animals.

The issue drew unwanted attention to Washington state last year, when authorities revealed that a man died of a perforated colon after having sex with a horse on a farm in rural King County.

Sheriff's officers believed they had no options for criminal charges for the man's companions because bestiality was not explicitly covered under the state's animal cruelty law. Prosecutors did eventually get one conviction for trespassing.

Animal advocates responded with a push to outlaw bestiality, and Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, vowed to sponsor the measure. Her bill began its legislative journey Thursday, heading to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.

"It's something from which (animals) need to be protected," the veteran lawmaker said Thursday. "It was shocking to a lot of people that this kind of thing went on."

Bestiality is explicitly illegal in parts of the country, but Washington is one of about 20 states that do not address the issue in lawbooks, animal activists said.

Washington gets soaked by rainfall

SEATTLE - Water-logged Washingtonians now have official government confirmation of something they've been suspecting: It's been raining a lot.

On Thursday, the 25th straight day of rain in Seattle, the National Weather Service announced that single-day records for rainfall had been set the day before at the airports here and in Olympia.

More seriously, officials worried about the potential for more landslides and flooding warned that saturated landscapes cannot hold much more water.

"What we need is a reprieve," Tony Fantello, maintenance and operations manager for Pierce County Water Programs in Tacoma, told The News Tribune. "Everything is just overtaxed. Even 24 to 36 hours of dry conditions really help take the heat off."

No dice, the weather service said: Rain is forecast for the next 10 days.

Seattle meteorologist Danny Mercer said his best guess was that rain would continue to fall every day until Seattle ties its 1953 record of 33 consecutive days of rain on Jan. 20 or breaks it Jan. 21.

"We have a front coming in almost every single day, with very few breaks in between these systems," Mercer said.

Basin cleanup extended two years at Hanford

RICHLAND, Wash. - The deadline for cleaning up the K Basins at the Hanford nuclear reservation has been extended by two more years.

The K East and K West basins were built in the 1950s to hold irradiated fuel from nuclear reactors at the federal site in south-central Washington. The pools have been prone to leaks, making cleanup a priority, but emptying them of radioactive sludge has proven more difficult than expected.

Under the new agreement, an additional two years and one month have been added to the deadline for removal and treatment of all radioactive sludge in the basins.

Hanford cleanup is governed by the Tri-Party Agreement, a cleanup pact signed by the state, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy,

"We're not happy with the delays, but this is where we are," said Larry Gadbois, an EPA environmental scientist.

Under the cleanup pact, sludge in the more contaminated pool, K East, is to be vacuumed into underwater containers and then transferred to the K West basin.

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