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Fog maroons hundreds of travelers

Even booked passengers have difficulty getting back to Juneau

Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2002

Heavy fog has forced 350 travelers to extend or delay trips throughout Southeast Alaska this week, Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Walsh said today.

Karen Lechner, a Juneau resident who hoped to fly to Boston today, first attempted to get from Juneau to Seattle on Wednesday.

"I was booked on the 7:30 flight last night, but I tried to get on standby in the morning (Wednesday)," Lechner said.

Standby wasn't an option, though, as heavy fog prevented even booked passengers on Wednesday's morning flights from reaching their destination on time.

No flights left Juneau on Wednesday morning or evening, Walsh said, but seven of Alaska Airline's scheduled 12 daily flights took off in a three-hour window that opened at noon.

The airline brought an extra plane down from Anchorage to get out as many passengers as possible, Walsh said.

The additional flight didn't help Lechner, though. Her flight couldn't leave at 7:30 last night as planned, so she arrived at the airport at 4 a.m. today to try to get on the first available flight. Unfortunately, no flights left the airport this morning.

"I just want to get out of Juneau," Lechner said.

She's not the only one. Delayed flights to Anchorage left 27 youths from the Juneau Christian Center and 15 Juneau-Douglas High School Student Council members waiting at the Juneau Airport, playing cards, listening to music and reading magazines.

Flights into and out of Sitka and Ketchikan have been affected less by the fog than those to Juneau, Wrangell and Petersburg, Walsh said. It is possible to fly into and out of Sitka and Ketchikan, just not to Juneau.

Alaska Airlines had no firm plans as of 11 a.m. today to add flights to its Southeast Alaska schedule. Seventy-five people were stranded in the Juneau Airport this morning, Walsh said.

The heavy fog is a result of the large amount of rain in Juneau last week, said Bob Mosley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. A break-up in cloud cover cooled air temperatures and a lack of wind made conditions ripe for fog, which forms when moisture-laden air cools and condenses into ground-level clouds.

"On cloudy days the heat is trapped and it doesn't cool down that much," Mosley said. "But when you have a loss of heat from the earth when the clouds leave, it exacerbates the chance of fog forming."

The fog would disappear with slightly warmer temperatures and a little wind to mix up the air.

"It's very difficult to get rid of this fog in a light-wind situation," Mosley said.

The National Weather Service is predicting a break-up of the fog this afternoon, with a strong chance of it forming again this evening. By Friday evening, though, Juneau should be in the clear, Mosley said.

"We should see winds picking up in the afternoon or evening Friday," he said. "Once the winds pick up in the channel, that's it, no fog."

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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