Temblor delays jets to Juneau

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Washington state Wednesday is causing delays for Alaska Airlines passengers today.

The company canceled one flight to Juneau on Wednesday and delayed others yesterday and today.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport was limiting the number of flights there because the quake damaged the control tower and air traffic was backed up, said Chris Heine of Alaska Airlines' local office. Heine said Flight 61 to Juneau sat on the ground in Seattle for nearly an hour this morning because of the backlog.

"We pushed it from the gate on time, but it taxied for 55 minutes because of the air traffic control problems at Sea-Tac," said Heine.

Rumors that Sea-Tac might be closed for 48 hours proved untrue. The airport was up and running within about two hours after the quake, but Wednesday was "a busy day" for Alaska Airlines in Juneau, said Heine.

The company canceled one Juneau-bound flight Wednesday and several others were delayed, including two scheduled to leave Juneau and Sitka this morning, he said.

"Today we had some crew issues because everyone got off schedule, and a crew didn't get sufficient rest," Heine said.

Although Alaska Airlines checked bags only as far as Seattle on Wednesday, baggage handling is back to normal today, he said.

The quake also forced local barge companies to do some quick thinking. Northland Services and Alaska Marine Lines barge groceries and other goods between Seattle and Alaska every week.

Northland Services General Manager Tom Satry said he expected a significant disruption to the schedule Wednesday but it appears the fallout will be minimal. Satry said the earthquake closed some drawbridges in Seattle's Duwamish Waterway, preventing large vessels from passing. Two of those bridges stand between open water and Northland's dock. However, the company is stacking cargo containers two high, instead of the usual four, so the barges will be low enough to go under the bridges.

"We're coming out of there at 3 this afternoon, which is right on schedule. So we're not anticipating any delays," said Satry.

He said the company did not have to leave any cargo behind to clear the bridge. However, if the bridges are not fixed in a couple months, it might be an issue because the company generally carries more cargo after winter, he said.

Alaska Marine Lines got around the problem the same way. Only one bridge stands between AML's Seattle dock and open water and it was high enough to allow the company to stack containers four high, instead of the usual five, said Don Reid of AML.

"It hasn't impacted our schedule other than we sailed a couple hours later than we otherwise would have," Reid said.

Reid lives in Juneau but was in Seattle when the quake struck. He had just left a meeting at the West Coast Hotel near the airport and was standing in a hall when it happened.

"At first I didn't really realize what was going on - denial for a minute, then get out," Reid said. "The building was moving a lot, and I just stepped to the outside door and walked outside."

Former Juneau Mayor Jamie Parsons was alarmed when temporary phone outages did not let him check on the welfare of his son, Rob, 26, in Tacoma.

His anxiety was fueled by memories of the last big quake in the Seattle area in 1952. Parsons lived in Kent, Wash., at the time.

"I vividly remember the power pole out back moving and some of the plaster coming off the walls," he said. "When you can't get ahold of people and they don't get the message to call home, you get worried."

After a few attempts through regular channels, Parsons recalled he had his son's cell phone number - somewhere. Rob Parsons works for Service Master, a Tacoma firm that refurbishes buildings damaged by water and fire. Parsons was able to talk to his son twice by cell phone and reassure himself of his safety.

The younger Parsons' place of work didn't fare so well. "The entire false ceiling caved in, but no one was injured," Parsons said. Wednesday evening, when normal phone service resumed, Parsons was able to contact his sister and other friends and relatives in the Seattle area. All escaped unscathed.

A spokeswoman for the Port of Bellingham said although the Washington community "definitely felt" the quake, it did not damage the facility, which is used by Alaska ferries.

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