Alaska Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Alleged car thief arrested after accident

JUNEAU - Police arrested an 18-year-old Juneau resident Monday afternoon on auto theft charges, alleging he fled from a stolen car after an accident.

Robert A. Porter was transported to the Lemon Creek Correctional Center where he was lodged without bail. Police reported that he was arrested on charges of first-degree vehicle theft and two misdemeanor offenses - driving without a license and failure to give immediate notification of an accident.

Police received a report at 4:10 p.m. Monday of a 1985 Volkswagen Jetta being stolen from behind the Jordan Creek Mall. About 20 minutes later, the department received a report of a two-vehicle accident at Jordan Avenue and Glacier Highway, involving a Jetta and a 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit.

The driver of the Jetta reportedly fled the scene. As police were on their way, they learned that the Jetta's driver was being physically restrained by a 25-year-old man behind Nugget Mall.

Police reported that they believe Porter stole the Jetta early Monday and was driving at the time of the accident. The case remains under investigation and further charges are pending.

Damage to the Jetta was estimated at $4,000. Damage to the Rabbit was estimated at $500.

Earthquake rattles area southeast of Nikolski

ANCHORAGE - A moderate earthquake shook the area southeast of Nikolski on Sunday night.

The quake struck at 8:42 p.m. and had a preliminary magnitude of 5.1, according to the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

The earthquake was 25 miles deep. It was centered about 75 miles southeast of Nikolski.

Nikolski is on Nikolski Bay off the southwest end of Umnak Island, one of the Fox Islands. Nikolski is 116 air miles west of Unalaska.

There were no reports of injury or damage from the quake and it did not generate a tsunami.

Late summer light impedes Mars view

FAIRBANKS - Late summer light is limiting the Alaska view of Mars, which is the closest to Earth it has been in 60,000 years.

On Aug. 27, the red planet will be as near to Earth as it will get until 2287.

"Certainly it's exciting for people," said local astronomy enthusiast Martin Gutowski. "Now we just need to get beyond (autumn) equinox to really get a good look at it."

The rare planet-gazing has prompted observation parties across the nation, where even amateurs can see Mars looking bigger and brighter than usual in the southern sky. With a telescope, it's possible to see dust clouds, volcanic terrain and basins and even a polar ice cap, which is melting because the sun is shining on it, according the NASA Web site.

If dust storms on Mars don't pose an obstruction, the best views of the planet should be on Aug. 27, when, in the early morning, it will come within 34.65 million miles of Earth, the closest the planets have been in 60,000 years.

Murkowski ends tour of Kuskokwim region

ANCHORAGE - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski got a firsthand look at the challenges facing one of the state's poorest regions after finishing a tour of the Kuskokwim Delta.

The Republican senator, her family and selected staff spent five days last week visiting 15 villages in southwest Alaska.

"I'm not sure all Alaskans realize, but this is big country out here with big issues," she said, talking by telephone Monday from Bethel. "This (trip) has helped me understand those issues with a whole new perspective."

The region has the highest unemployment rate in the state, nearly 26 percent, according to the state Department of Labor.

Gas exploration triggers concerns at Sutton

ANCHORAGE - The prospect of natural gas trapped in coal beds in Sutton is fueling dreams of a new energy industry for Southcentral Alaska - and triggering a wave of community concern about drinking water safety.

Evergreen Resources Alaska Corp. is asking the state to approve three-year shallow gas leases on nearly 57,000 acres near the Castle Mountain fault. That includes populated areas around Sutton and Lazy Mountain in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

But some Sutton residents fear gas exploration could deplete or pollute their drinking water wells and create a grid of noisy wellheads and gravel roads crisscrossing the forest.

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