Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Power outage darkens airport area Monday

JUNEAU - Residents and businesses around the Juneau Airport lost power for more than a half-hour Monday afternoon when a tree fell on a power line, according to Gayle Wood of Alaska Electric Light & Power.

The outage affected the Nugget Mall and surrounding businesses, and most customers farther from the problem may have at least seen their lights flicker just before 3 p.m., Wood said.

Most affected customers had power restored by 3:23, though six businesses remained without electricity longer, she said.

Betting begins on Tanana River breakup

FAIRBANKS - The Nenana Ice Classic tripod is back on the frozen Tanana River - a sure sign that spring can't be too far off.

Workers set up the towering tripod Sunday, signaling the 88th start of the popular betting game.

Participants pay $2.50 for a shot at choosing the exact date and time the Tanana's ice will break up, toppling the tripod into the river. Several people usually guess correctly and share a portion of the jackpot, which was $301,000 last year.

Jeff Mayrand, who built this year's tripod, and a crew of volunteers spent Sunday afternoon cutting grooves in the Tanana for the legs of the 26-foot-high contraption.

Once final preparations were completed, about a dozen people gripped a rope on opposite sides of the tripod and pulled it into position.

Now begins the wait.

Interior man offers Net view of Northern Lights

CLEARY SUMMIT - Troy Birdsall lugged a tripod and a camera wrapped in insulation onto a rock outcropping near the Skiland recreation area just as the late winter sun began to set.

Hurrying in the bitter cold wind, Birdsall set up the tripod, aimed the camera toward the orange horizon, then hustled into a tiny hut. Inside, a television screen displayed the image.

The stage was set to offer Internet surfers around the world a peek at the treats of an Interior Alaska winter sky.

Birdsall has repeated the process nearly every evening since November, when he began providing live broadcasts of the northern lights through his aurora webcam.

An experienced aurora borealis photographer, Birdsall started planning for a real-time northern lights Web site two years ago. After shopping around for the proper equipment and learning plenty about computers along the way, the project went online this winter.

His Web site,, is drawing hits from all over the globe, many of them Europeans who take advantage of the time zone difference to start their day by viewing the northern lights.

"I got a couple of guys from Finland; they'll get out of bed and get on the Internet to look at the aurora," said Birdsall, 21.

The Web camera broadcasts live shots of the sky from about 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Alaska time. Birdsall runs the operation from a desk inside his house. His nightly task begins as soon as he arrives home after a day of working as an electrician in Fairbanks.

Kodiak boy pulls brother from icy pond

KODIAK - An 8-year-old Kodiak boy is credited with saving his brother after the younger boy broke through ice on a pond.

Christopher Partridge, his brother, Jacob, 6, and friends were on their way home from school Wednesday when they stopped at a pond to slide on the ice.

Jacob wandered farther onto the pond than the rest of the children and the ice gave way. He fell into the freezing water up to his neck.

Christopher Partridge grabbed a stick and held it out to his brother. He was able to pull the younger boy out of the water.

The children took the wet boy to a nearby house rather than taking a longer route to their own house.

The courage of Christopher, a second-grader, was celebrated at his school, East Elementary, on Friday with a cake and praises from Chris' teacher, Ted Nussbaum. The importance of his quick action was emphasized for other children.

"The stick was important," Nussbaum said, because it allowed Christopher to help his brother without endangering himself.

"I'm more than proud of that little man," said his mother, Teresa Partridge

Police Chief T.C. Kamai said his department suggests that children stay off of ice.

"Our climate is not like the mainland," he said. "It is hard sometimes to judge the thickness of the ice and how safe it is.

"We go through colder moments and then it warms up. That makes it difficult to judge how thick the ice is," Kamai said.

MidAmerican wants state contract soon

JUNEAU - MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co. says it wants to reach a contract with the state by the end of the week for payments in lieu of taxes on the company's proposed North Slope natural gas pipeline.

As of Friday, the company had not agreed to the state's request that it cover Alaska's expenses in the negotiations.

The Stranded Gas Act says the state may use independent contractors to assist in evaluating fiscal contract applications for payments in lieu of state and municipal taxes on a natural gas project.

The law also says the Department of Revenue commissioner "may condition development of a contract ... on an agreement by the applicant to reimburse the state for the reasonable expenses of independent contractors."

The three major North Slope producers negotiating with the state under the same Stranded Gas Development Act signed a reimbursement agreement a month ago.

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