Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mystery fumes force Nikiski evacuation

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ANCHORAGE - A mystery odor that overtook Nikiski Wednesday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of a residential street, has Kenai Peninsula Borough officials scratching their heads.

"It was a pretty strong odor to the point that some people's eyes were itching," said Richard Campbell, a borough spokesman. "It was described as something like Super Glue."

The cyanoacrylate-based adhesive is known for its distinctive, slightly acrid odor.

Reports began to filter in around 3 p.m. and the Nikiski Fire Department responded by ordering the evacuation of Bernice Lake Road, Campbell said.

Campbell couldn't offer a guess as to where the smell came from, saying it didn't smell like a methamphetamine lab or any other type of illegal operation.

The two commercial plants in the area - the Agrium Nikiski Fertilizer Complex and Tesoro's Nikiski Alaska refinery - were both contacted and said the scent was not emitting from their locations, Campbell said.

By late afternoon the smell had dissipated and authorities determined there was no longer a threat, he said.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes by about 5:30 p.m.

Man survives frigid waters for three days

ANCHORAGE - A man found floating atop a boat in Lake Iliamna three days after the vessel capsized in stormy waters was not wearing a lifejacket. That may have saved his life.

Lance Hobson, 26, of Nondalton, was making a 40-mile trip from Igiugig to Kokhanok with three friends Friday night when the anchor fell from the bow and caught the lake bottom. The boat's bow submerged and caused the boat to flip at least twice.

He surfaced to find the flat-bottomed boat capsized and his childhood friends clinging to its underside, trying to stay afloat in the frigid Alaska water.

Riding with Hobson were friends Clinton Abarca, 26, of Nondalton; Chad Rawls, 23, of Iliamna; and Vince Rickteroff, 19, of Nondalton.

"We were all sitting on top of the boat and we were all praying that we didn't die," Hobson said.

In an interview from his hospital room Wednesday in Anchorage, Hobson told The Associated Press that he was the only one of the four men who was not wearing a lifejacket. Had he been, he probably would have swam off toward the shore with the others and disappeared too, he said.

"I was really thinking about trying it," he said. "But I knew I wouldn't have made it even with a lifejacket."

A private plane located the skiff at 2:15 p.m. Monday - about 62 hours into the ordeal - and a helicopter picked up Hobson about five miles from shore. He was flown to the clinic in Kokhanok and treated for hypothermia, then transported to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

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