Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Officials investigate sewage discharge

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JUNEAU - Alaska transportation officials are investigating a sewage discharge aboard a state ferry while it was docked in Ketchikan.

The ship's captain reported an undetermined amount of storage back-flowed into crew staterooms aboard the 352-food Taku early Monday. No passengers or crew were injured, although there were some crewmembers in their rooms when the sewage discharge occurred.

The Alaska Marine Highway System reports the ferry has been cleaned and sanitized. Federal officials are recommending anyone exposed to the discharge get precautionary inoculations. The treatment is voluntary.

Cold likely killed man found in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - Cold temperatures below zero likely caused the death of a man found last Friday on a downtown street in Anchorage.

Authorities say the 32-year-old homeless man was not wearing hat or gloves when he died.

Police have identified the man as 32-year-old Victor Rock Junior. He was lying on his side near the corner of Third Avenue and Orca Street, where a friend found him Friday morning.

Police say temperatures the previous night had dropped below zero, making Friday one of the coldest days of the year.

Rock was wearing tennis shoes, jeans, socks, a shirt, a sweat shirt and a jacket, but had nothing to cover his head or his hands.

Lost records delay sale of fireworks stand

HOUSTON - Robert Hall owns all three fireworks stands here, making him the "Gorilla" of the pyrotechnics business.

A sign posted at Jerry's Discount Fireworks - Hall's only competition - reads "OPEN JUNE 2008." With New Year's Eve fast approaching, the light blue stand remains shuttered.

Owner Jerry Mignano, 44, died in February of a brain aneurysm associated with heart trouble while he was returning home from a convention in Arizona. Mignano owned two other stands in the area, both of which are closed.

Mignano's estate has leased both stands through next summer to TNT Fireworks, said Kenneth Kirk, the estate attorney working with Mignano's executor and heirs. The company is the largest distributor of consumer fireworks in the country, according to its Web site. A representative from TNT did not return a call for comment.

Hall bought out Mignano's existing inventory.

Friends of Mignano bristled over the summer at the prospect that his stands could fall into competitor Hall's hands.

Mignano would be furious to see how things are turning out, said Sam Amato, 35, a friend for eight years who helped Mignano run his stands and did shows with him.

"I hate to say this, because he was a friend of mine, but he'd be crawling out of his grave," Amato said.

Mignano left no will behind, so his estate opted to sell his business to the highest bidder.

By August, three bidders surfaced: Hall; Anchorage radio personality Bob Lester and his investment partners; and Jackie Whedbee, a local pyrotechnics specialist.

Lester's was the high offer at $510,000.

But bidding stalled when an accurate appraisal fizzled. Missing financial records, most of them on a lost laptop, complicated the process, Kirk said.

Accountants are re-creating the records.

Kirk said he hopes to get the records straightened out within a few months so bidders can see what Mignano was making and the estate can "get the best price."

It is legal to sell fireworks in Houston and to light them on private property there. Fireworks are illegal everywhere else in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and everywhere in Anchorage.

Earthquake occurs near Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - An earthquake occurred Tuesday afternoon near Anchorage.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer says the quake was centered 20 miles southeast of Alaska's largest city and occurred at 3:49 p.m. It had a preliminary magnitude of 3.7.

There were no immediate reports the quake did any damage.

Lack of snow works to moose advantage

KENAI - Moose are abundant year-round on the Kenai Peninsula but this time of year can be particularly hazardous because of motorists who have difficulty seeing the largest member of the deer family in the dim winter light.

"As of Friday morning, 104 moose have been reported hit and salvaged so far this regulatory season, which runs annually from July 1 to June 30," said Larry Lewis, a wildlife technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

While 104 may sound like a lot, Lewis said it is still fewer than the total number hit by vehicles. Some moose managed to amble away.

"We've also had 30 hit and not recovered," he said.

The number also is significantly less than roadkills for this same time last year, and it's well below the 10-year average.

"We were at 133 through the end of December last year, with a total of 216 for the (regulatory) year. We're also about 36 below the 10-year average which is 140 moose killed," Lewis said.

He said lack of snow is helping the moose.

"The lack of snow is a biggy. They're not on the roads like they'd typically be at this time," Lewis said.

In years with heavy snow accumulations, rather than trudging through deep powder, which is physically demanding on moose, they often prefer the ease of walking on the plowed road system as they move back and forth between feeding locations. There also is a lot of good browse available along the road system.

However, this season, with little snow on the ground until this past week, Lewis said many moose were still finding food in natural areas away from road systems.

"There was still a lot of good forage available to them," he said.

Winter is typically a time when icy road conditions can make quick stops challenging, but Lewis said this has barely been the case this season.

"The roads have been relatively dry, so people have likely been able to stop quicker when moose have launched out in front of them," he said.

Woman charged with DUI regrets behavior

PALMER - A woman arrested on a charge of driving under the influence says she regrets her mistake and is going into alcohol treatment.

Laura Phillips of Palmer was arrested last Thursday. Alaska State Troopers say she was drinking vodka from a water bottle while driving two 11-year-old girls.

Phillips says she's ashamed, and calls the incident a "a bad, bad, bad mistake."

The former dietitian at Mat-Su Regional Medical Centers was arrested for drunken driving and charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Troopers say preliminary tests showed Phillips had almost three times the legal limit of blood alcohol content for motorists.

First responders go high tech in Kenai

KENAI - Having a GPS receiver and knowing how to use it are two different things, or so Stephen Brown will tell you.

"When you use (a GPS receiver) for navigation, you're using it for yourself," said Brown, the agriculture and horticulture agent for the Copper River/Matanuska-Susitna Cooperative Extension Service operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"When you're using it for emergency response, you're using someone else's maps and resources. If you don't know how to read coordinates, you could end up in a wrong location or give 911 a wrong location, which in Alaska could be life threatening."

The Kenai Peninsula Borough's Office of Emergency Management partnered with the University of Fairbanks Cooperative Extension office on the Kenai Peninsula to offer a beginner's and advanced course on how to use GPS for the purposes of emergency response.

The class was offered earlier this month to Civil Air Patrol Cadets, members of the Community Emergency Response Team , as well as people who did Global Information Systems mapping for the borough. Glenda Landua, the OEM citizen coordinator, said her office helped organize the sessions and enrollment got so big Brown was booked for six back-to-back sessions in two days.

"Our hope is once (the students) figure out how to use them, they can use them for emergency," she said. "The vision is to have people familiar with it so they can use it for search and rescue."

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