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Southeast Alaska News
ANCHORAGE — A final report by the National Transportation Safety Board concludes an Australian pilot likely became spatially disoriented in poor weather before crashing near Fairbanks last year.
The NTSB says in the probable cause report it’s likely the pilot lost control of the rented Piper Saratoga and “entered a steep spiraling dive from which he was unable to recover.”
ANCHORAGE — Police say cold weather contributed to the death of a 34-year-old woman whose body was found inside a vehicle near downtown Anchorage.
Police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro says foul play isn’t suspected in the death of Elaine Marie Cleveland of Anchorage.
Police were alerted just before 7:30 a.m. Thursday about a woman who was unresponsive and unconscious in a vehicle at the 1000 block of 6th Avenue. Medics declared her dead at the scene.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers say a privately-owned ATM was stolen from a Palmer restaurant.
The Anchorage Daily News reports the machine was taken from RW’s Hamburger House Saturday morning. It weighs about 200 pounds, and troopers suspect it would require more than one person to take it.
Restaurant employee James Tickney says burglars forced their way into the building’s back door and dragged the ATM about 25 feet outside.
He says there was about $4,700 in the ATM when taken.
ANCHORAG — A small earthquake rattled Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula but didn’t prompt any reports of damage.
The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the quake occurred at 5:42 a.m. Saturday in the Cook Inlet region, and that it was felt in the southern part of the peninsula, south of Anchorage.
The earthquake was located at a depth of about 73 miles.
ANCHORAGE — Alaska State Troopers say a 38-year-old Togiak man was dragged almost two miles in the village after his clothing got stuck on the back hitch of the vehicle.
Troopers say Rodney Gosuk was injured and intoxicated when he was found partially naked in the middle of a road in the village.
Troopers were notified Tuesday night by the village public safety officer and flew to Togiak the following day.
According to troopers, the truck driven by a Togiak woman dragged Gosuk for 1.7 miles.
FAIRBANKS — The state has issued an air quality advisory for the Fairbanks area through Saturday.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports cold air and temperature inversions are behind the poor air quality.
The advisory from the state Department of Environmental Conservation covers Fairbanks, North Pole and surrounding areas.
It also deems the air quality in Fairbanks as “unhealthy,” the third-worst category behind “very unhealthy” and “hazardous.”
AT&T says it has restored cell phone service in Southeast Alaska after weather caused problems with the company’s microwave equipment this week.
Customers with AT&T cell phone service in several Southeast Alaska communities have reported intermittent problems receiving and making phone calls this week.
A spokesman with AT&T says the outages are caused by dense fog, rain and icy conditions affecting the company’s microwave communications system in the region. AT&T’s Andy Colley declined an interview about the issue but said in an email Friday afternoon that service has been fully restored.
The outages impacted some cell phone customers around Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau.
Petersburg residents and small business owners who want to install an air-source heat pump could soon get some help from their local government. Borough staffers are recommending a new rebate program. As Matt Lichtenstein reports, the technology has grown more popular in Petersburg and elsewhere in Southeast.
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Air source heat pumps don’t create heat. Rather, they use electricity to move warm air from the outdoors to the indoors even when it’s really cold outside. Fleet Refrigeration and Heating owner Wally McDonald has installed 25 to 30 air-source-heat-pumps in Petersburg, most of them just this past year.
“What you’re really doing is taking heat out of the outside air. So, it’s actually harnessing solar energy because the sunshine heats the atmosphere and you’re … extracting the heat out of the atmosphere and concentrating it inside your home,” he says.
Air-source heat pumps can provide cooling as well as heating. They’ve been in use for decades in more moderate climates. However, manufacturers have been improving the technology to make it more efficient in drawing warmth from much colder, outside air. Some manufacturers advertise cold-climate units that can draw heat in below-freezing temperatures.
According to McDonald, the air-source pumps have been economical here, “Of course there’s always going to be savings over oil given oil prices now but what we’re finding now is compared with electric resistance heat, which has become popular lately, the heat pumps will actually run on about a third of the power. They get a mechanical advantage over direct resistance heat.”
There are no recent studies on the efficiency of air-source heat pumps in Southeast according to Alaska’s Cold Climate Housing Research Center. However, in a 2013 report on the issue, the center did a review of existing literature, a market assessment and some computer modeling. Center Research Scientist Vanessa Stevens was one of the authors:
“It was a little informal in that we didn’t monitor any existing systems but we did talk to a lot of homeowners that had installed them and we talked to some installers and some regional planners in southeast to see if the air-source heat pumps would be a good option for the region. And we did find that anecdotally they work really well. You know, we heard from a lot of people that it’s a good option. Even though there’s a lot of heating options in Southeast, especially like biomass is pretty big there, air source heat pumps have some advantages like they’re very low maintenance equipment and they use less electricity than electric baseboard,” she says.
Still, the report recommends a back-up system for the coldest days of winter, when heat pumps are least efficient. Most of Alaska’s colder regions are not good candidates for the unit, according to the report, which also says they can be prohibitively expensive to operate in areas with high energy costs. In areas with cheaper electricity, the report found air-source heat pumps are an attractive choice.
Fleet Refrigeration’s Wally McDonald credits homeowner Kim Toland for convincing him to start installing the pumps in Petersburg. Toland purchased one unit in 2009 and two more in 2010.
He says they have helped him save money on energy, “Oh, there’s no question about it. And plus you know, you feel more comfortable about keeping your house at an acceptable level because often times in Southeastern Alaska the outdoor temperature may be 50 degrees, which isn’t brutal, but if you’re inside and its only 50 degrees in the house, that’s not very comfortable. So, with an air-source heat pump, you know, the efficiency is so high when the temperature is above 40 degrees, that the amount of work that’s used to increase the inside temperature of the house is minimal.”
Along with the heat pumps, Toland also uses a catalytic wood stove to heat his home of about 15 hundred square feet.
Installation costs for air-source heat pumps can vary widely depending on the situation. For example, according to the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, a single unit for a small home could run around three thousand dollars. A much larger, more complicated installation might cost closer to 10 thousand.
Petersburg borough staffers are recommending a rebate program to help cover a portion of the cost. People who purchase and install an air source pump would get 450 to 1500 dollars back from the borough, depending on the number and capacity of the units.
According to Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht, the incentive program would benefit the municipality as well as the residential and small-commercial property owners who take advantage of it, “The concept behind it is not only does it help them with what appears to be lower energy bills, it is a solution that is more energy efficient than the old style boiler or using space heaters. So, we’re pretty excited about it and it helps us in the long run from a standpoint of using up very valuable hydro resources in a way that’s more efficient.”
The increasing cost of heating oil has driven many people in Petersburg to switch over to electric heat in recent years, boosting the demand for the power, which is mainly supplied by the Tyee Hydro-Electric plant. Local officials have been concerned that growing demand will eventually exceed the town’s hydro capacity.
Similar concerns prompted the City and Borough of Sitka to offer a rebate program for several types of appliances in 2012 and 40 people received rebates for installing heat pumps.
Petersburg has previously offered a rebate to people who install ground-source heat pumps, which extract warmth from the consistent temperature of the ground. However, they are substantially more expensive than air-source units and no one took advantage of that program.
To try and cut its own heating bills, the borough recently installed a large air-source heat pump in its motor pool building. With its garage doors, Giesbrecht says it’s a tough structure to keep warm and the pump has made a big difference:
“We’re seeing about 5 thousand dollars in savings at this point. Its early in the process and if you talk to employees, they’re saying it’s a lot more pleasant in the room than it used to be and the unit appears to be working pretty flawlessly. So, we’re happy,” says Giesbrecht.
Giesbrecht plans to ask the Borough Assembly for approval before moving ahead with the air–source heat pump rebate program. He is hopes to put it on the Assembly’s January 6th agenda.
If you live along Frederick Sound or spent some time out on the water in late fall and early winter, you probably noticed a larger-than-usual group of humpback whales hanging fairly close to town in November and into December. While some will likely overwinter here, most of the animals typically head to Hawaii by the end of the year. Early this month, Matt Lichtenstein asked retired fishery biologist and Petersburg Marine Mammal Center President Barry Bracken for his thoughts about the winter whales in Southern Frederick Sound.
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That’s Petersburg Marine Mammal Center President Barry Bracken. He spoke with KFSK earlier this month. Bracken said the center appreciates reports about whale observations in the winter as well as other times of the year. The center’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced an emergency closure for mountain goat hunting in the North Fork Katlian River area in Sitka. Biologists have set a maximum guideline harvest objective of four male mountain goats, or one female mountain goat for the area. On Tuesday (12-24-13) that guideline harvest was met – two male goats and one nanny was harvested.
The harvest guidelines are based on elaborate research that starts with radio collaring dozens of goats on Baranof island. From the vantage point of a Temsco helicopter, Phil Mooney, along with Juneau goat researcher Kevin White scour the mountaintops for goats. When they find one the goat is darted and sedated. Then they take body measurements, blood and tissue samples, photographs, and install a GPS radio collar. Within an hour the sedative is reversed and the goat is back on its feet completely unharmed. Mooney says, “the information collected from the collars so far has greatly expanded our understanding of goats on Baranof.”
Customers with AT&T cell phone service in Southeast Alaska have reported intermittent problems receiving and making phone calls this week.
A spokesman with AT&T says the problems of no service or degraded service are caused by dense fog, rain and icy conditions affecting the company’s microwave equipment in the region. AT&T’s Andy Colley said Friday afternoon in an email that technicians have reached the affected equipment and are working to resolve the issue. AT&T apologizes for the inconvenience.
The outages are impacting some cell phone customers around Ketchikan, Petersburg and Juneau.
A man of high integrity with a strong work ethic – KFSK’s News Director for the past 17 years is moving on. Thank you for the dedication and service you’ve provided through the years.
KFSK is pleased to announce the addition of a seasoned journalist and public broadcaster – Angela Denning-Barnes. Angela will join the KFSK News department in mid-February. Angela comes to Petersburg after serving in Bethel, Alaska as the KYUK News Director.
ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Court of Appeals on Friday reinstated charges against a former state senator and others for violating conditions of their subsistence fishing permits.
A wildlife officer in August 2009 cited then-lawmaker Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and others for catching more sockeye salmon than allowed under a subsistence fishing permit.
Andy Piston, coordinator of the annual Christmas Bird Count in Ketchikan speaks about this year’s effort and what birders found. BirdCount
ANCHORAGE — The state appeals court on Friday reinstated charges of excessive fishing against a former state senator and two others.
A wildlife officer in August 2009 cited former lawmaker Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, and others for catching more sockeye salmon than allowed under a subsistence fishing permit.
The men challenged the citations, and a district court sided with the men. The court said the Board of Fisheries should have set limits and not delegated that authority to the Department of Fish and Game.
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Cdr. Pete Melnick, Air Station Sitka, and Sitka Mountain Rescue captain Don Kluting discuss some simple ideas for outdoor safety, whether you’re planning a major hike or an afternoon walk.
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Ancient skeletal remains discovered in the basement of KCAW’s Cable House have been exhumed and placed in the custody of the Sitka Tribe of Alaska. Juneau airport will open a food concession inside security area. Ketchikan council member resigns under pressure after accusations surface of misconduct in his teaching career.