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Alaska football: Week 1 scores

Sat, 2018-08-11 19:21

Friday's games

Colony 27, South 26
Eagle River 42, Houston 14
East 47, Chugiak 0
Ketchikan 49, Redington 14
Kodiak 56, Homer 15
West 18, Soldotna 13
West Valley 40, Service 35

Saturday's games

Barrow 40, Nikiski 7
Dimond 35 Wasilla 21
Lathrop 49, Kenai 21
Monroe 27, Seward 12
Palmer 31, Juneau 8
Eielson at North Pole, late

Bartlett at Baldwin (Maui), late

Political sign enforcement justified

Sat, 2018-08-11 19:07

Political signs that were removed by the Alaska Department of Transportation sit in a DOT complex in Anchorage on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. The signs were removed because they were illegally placed along road rights-of-way and posed a safety concern. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Understanding the wisdom of a recent Department of Transportation enforcement action removing illegal campaign signs from road rights of way is as easy as taking a drive across town. As the Aug. 21 primary election approaches, signs are sprouting alongside Southcentral roads like bird vetch. And although they're not as difficult to remove as invasive weeds, the signs are considerably worse about cluttering the visual landscape — and sometimes dangerously obstructing drivers' view.

Alaska has a particularly restrictive set of laws that govern advertising on or near the roadway. A voter initiative passed in 1998 set severe limits on campaign signs and other billboards. As DOT officials remind campaigns in a statement issued each year, "Alaska laws apply to signs on public or commercial property either within 660 feet of the state's public right of way or beyond 660 feet and legible from the main traveled way. These signs may be removed by the state at the expense of the property owner."

It's rare, however, for the law to be enforced, and campaigns and property owners flagrantly flout the restrictions, placing signs the size of a mattress or larger well within the right of way on major thoroughfares. Sometimes this is merely an annoyance for drivers who dislike seeing ads during their commute, but in some cases, large signs near intersections or access to businesses can impede drivers' ability to see oncoming traffic or other cars about to enter the roadway. Typically, the only signs removed by DOT are ones about which they receive many complaints, and even then, tight budgets mean quite a few problem signs will remain. Too often, those providing and placing the signs exploit that lack of enforcement.

This isn't to say that the law should always be enforced to the letter; indeed, few laws are. But in its crackdown on illegal signs thus far, DOT officials haven't flagged every sign legible from the roadway, as they could. Instead, they have wisely opted to focus on ones that are obvious offenders and those that pose potential hazards, much as state troopers don't try to pull over every speeding driver, only those most likely to present safety hazards. What's more, although DOT has the option of performing the removals at property owners' expense, they have opted instead to use their own funds. So far, they estimate a cost of $3,600 for sign removals. If one fender-bender is prevented, the expense of sign removal will have been more than justified.

There has been predictable grousing from campaigns whose signs have been removed, and even allegations that Gov. Bill Walker has orchestrated the sign removal campaign to disadvantage his opponents. Mudslinging is par for the course during campaign season, but these attacks don't hold water. It's not as though Walker's campaign somehow benefits unduly from everyone having to play by the same rules. And from a practical perspective, arguing that signs should be placed more directly in drivers' field of vision probably isn't politically wise for campaigns — the voters, after all, were the ones who overwhelmingly approved the sign ban in the first place.

There's no need for stringent sign enforcement that unfairly restricts Alaskans' rights to engage in political speech. But the DOT sign removal campaign has so far balanced the right to campaign for candidates with Alaskans' rights to get around Anchorage safely and not be unduly barraged by billboard-style signs close to the road. Who can take issue with that?

Huge comeback puts Dimond back in the win column

Sat, 2018-08-11 19:06

Colton Lindquist of Wasilla upends Dimond ballcarrier Gio Young during Saturday’s game at Dimond Alumni Field. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

The big news of the weekend was West's 18-13 victory over Soldotna that ended the Stars' state-record 59-game winning streak.

But that wasn't the only Alaska football streak that ended.

The Dimond Lynx staged a huge comeback to defeat Wasilla 35-21 and end a seven-game losing streak Saturday afternoon at Dimond Alumni Field.

Dimond trailed 21-0 before seizing control of the game by scoring 35 unanswered points.

Reginald Drummond of Wasilla gains some ground as Jaili Rescober of Dimond gets a hand on him at Dimond High School in Anchorage, AK on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. Dimond High defeated Wasilla High 35-21 in their opening football game of the season. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

A touchdown with 95 seconds left in the first half put the Lynx on top 22-21, and they held the Warriors scoreless the rest of the way.

"Coming out of the locker room the coaches told us no matter what happens, we're a family," junior quarterback Riley Whetten said. "We knew if we all stuck in there, we could do it."

Whetten threw two touchdown passes, both to Dylan Tibbets. Gio Young rushed for two touchdowns and R.J. Cavazos ran for one.
The victory came in Bernardo Otero's debut as Dimond's head coach.

"The coming back tells us we have a lot more pride than maybe we had in the past," he said, "and that we're mentally disciplined."

A pass to Dimond’s RJ Cavazos is just out of reach as Riley Fuller of Wasilla defends. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Man who authorities say took airliner and crashed was a standout athlete in Alaska

Sat, 2018-08-11 18:52

Richard “Beebo” Russell (Screenshot from YouTube)

WASILLA — The man authorities say stole a Horizon Air plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and and later crashed it was a gregarious, outgoing star athlete at Wasilla High School remembered as "a great kid" by those who knew him.

"Absolutely the kind of kid you want on your team," said Wasilla High track and field coach Gary Howell.

Richard "Beebo" Russell graduated from Wasilla High School in 2008 after a standout career as a running back, wrestler and thrower. During his senior year of high school, Russell placed fifth in the discus at the 2008 ASAA/Alaska State Track and Field Championships, was fourth at 215 pounds at the state wrestling tournament and ran for six touchdowns as a fullback on the school's football team.

After graduating from Wasilla in 2008, he went on to play at least one season of football at Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota.

Pictures of Richard “Beebo” Russell from the 2008 Wasilla High School yearbook. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

Russell appears to have settled in the Pacific Northwest, married and eventually landed a job with Horizon Air, according to news reports and his and others' social media postings. He wrote on his blog that he met his wife in Coos Bay, Oregon; they operated a bakery together and eventually moved to Washington state south of Seattle. He wrote about using Horizon travel benefits to visit Alaska, and posted pictures from here and other destinations around the world.

On Saturday, Russell's family released a letter to news media that said, in part, "It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man. It is impossible to encompass who he was in a press release. He was a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend. …This is a complete shock to us."

Wasilla wrestling coach Shawn Hayes said his reaction was "surprise" when he heard the news about his former wrestler. Hayes said Russell was "a good kid who worked hard" while a member of the Wasilla wrestling program.

"He was always respectful, no signs of what happened, that's for sure," Hayes said.

Howell echoed Hayes' reaction.

"Total shock," Howell said Saturday, hours after learning of Russell's death. "The kid I knew, he wouldn't do that."

Howell said he first took notice of Russell long before the big, fast athlete went out for the track team.

"He had that energy, that vibrance," Howell said Saturday. "He was that kid you high-five in the hallway even if you don't know him."

Howell said he remembered Russell as a natural leader who wrote people's names and weight-lifting accomplishments on weight belts in the school's weight room as motivation.

"Still to this day, you go into the Wasilla High gym, there's a weight belt that says Beebo," Howell said.

[Seattle plane heist, fatal crash show gaps in security]

Russell's sister, Mary, also attended Wasilla High, and Howell said the two were extremely close.

"I can't even imagine what she's going through," he said.

Howell said he hopes people remember the Russell he knew — a "funny, great kid" who always had a smile and a joke.

"Everybody wanted to be around Beebo," he said.

As for why Russell chose to steal a plane and end his own life, Howell was at a loss for words.

"There's just no explanation."

Resources: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24-hour, confidential assistance if you or someone you know needs help: 1-800-273-TALK (8255),

Stolen Horizon Air plane ‘a serious breach,’ raises questions about airport security

Sat, 2018-08-11 18:38

Fire engines board a ferry at Steilacoom, Wash., bound for the site of a plane crash of a stolen plane on an island nearby on August 10, 2018. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times/TNS)

SEATTLE — He was a 29-year-old grounds crew member, fully credentialed to be inside secure areas and certified to tow aircraft around the tarmac. But federal investigators, Sea-Tac officials and his employer are scrambling to figure out how Richard Russell managed to steal a 76-passenger Horizon Air turboprop plane, take off from one of the busiest airports in the country and fly it around the south Puget Sound area before a fiery twilight crash Friday evening.

The answers to these questions could eventually alter security procedures not only at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport but at other airports around the country.

"Security is something that is taken very very seriously, and this clearly was a serious breach," said Michael Huerta, who until January of this year served as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA. "It won't surprise me if steps are taken to change protocol or put additional steps in place … The insider threat is something that is taken seriously."

[Richard 'Beebo' Russell was standout athlete at Wasilla High]

The FBI is leading the investigation into the takeoff and crash, working with the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA, the airlines, the Port of Seattle, which operates the airport, and state and local authorities. Investigators had not released Russell's name as of Saturday afternoon, but several sources, including a law-enforcement official, identified him to The Seattle Times.

Russell's roughly 75-minute flight drew spectators on the ground, lit up social media, and caused F-15s to be scrambled from an air base in Portland as 75 flights were delayed for up to two hours at Sea-Tac. Law-enforcement officials have said they don't believe terrorism was involved, and nothing from Russell's dialogue with air traffic control during the flight would suggest otherwise. That dialogue, captured in publicly released audio recordings, also offers little evidence of motive as Russell tells an air traffic controller he just circled Mount Rainier, calling it "beautiful," and hoped to have enough gas to go the Olympic Mountains.

While the air traffic controller tries to convince him to land at Joint Base Lewis-McChord or in the water, Russell talks of wanting to do a barrel roll, "and if that goes good I'm just going to nose down and call it a night."

Air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft at 8:47 p.m. Friday and his flight ended on the heavily wooded 230-acre Ketron Island, which has a population of about 20, igniting a forest fire that was still smoking Saturday. No one on the ground was injured.

The insider threat is a difficult one to counter. Many of the protective measures involve using background checks, such as criminal screens conducted on airline ground crews such as baggage handlers and tow operators, to ensure that anyone inside a secure area does not pose a security risk. Although the employee was at the end of his shift — and had no purpose approaching the aircraft — he did have the right to be in the area where he made his heist, according to Brad Tilden, chief executive of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Horizon.

Alaska Air Group spokeswoman Bobbie Egan introduced Alaska president and CEO Brad Tilden, Horizon Air president and CEO Gary Beck, Port of Seattle operations director Mike Ehl and FBI special-agent-in-charge Jay Tabb at a news conference at Sea-Tac International Airport on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. (Daniel Beekman/Seattle Times/TNS)

FAA regulations require pilots to undergo periodic physical examinations that may include questions about their psychological condition. Additionally, if the FAA receives information from another source about a mental-health issue, the agency may request a psychological evaluation. But no such evaluations are required for grounds-crew members.

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

The investigation into the aircraft theft will likely include a more detailed look at the scope of the screenings conducted on airline employees who have access to the ramps and also their ability to enter grounded aircraft.

"We pride ourselves on being a leader in safety and we will be a leader on this issue," Tilden said at a news conference Saturday morning. "But we're less than 24 hours after the incident. It's far too early to say what additional procedures we might implement."

Seattle plane heist, fatal crash show gaps in security

Sat, 2018-08-11 17:07

Alaska Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening, Aug. 10, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. An airline mechanic stole an Alaska Airlines plane without any passengers and took off from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state on Friday night before crashing near Ketron Island, officials said. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The 29-year-old hijacker was performing midair stunts over Puget Sound, an erratic flight pattern that seemed to mirror the loops and barrel rolls of his radio chatter.

He told the control tower he was "a broken guy" but a lot of people cared about him and he wanted to apologize. He asked the whereabouts of an orca whale and her dead calf. And he wondered – laughing – what would happen if he tried to do a "backflip" with the plane he had stolen from Seattle's main airport.

When the control tower urged him to attempt to land the empty, 76-seat Bombardier Q400 belonging to his employer, Horizon Air, the man – identified by a law enforcement official as Richard Russell – worried about harm to others on the ground. Better to take a nose dive, he said, "and call it a night."

The stunning heist of a large commercial airplane from a major U.S. airport Friday night took no other lives than the pilot's, but the incident has heightened worries about gaps in American aviation security, forcing questions about how Russell, a baggage handler and grounds crew member, could take control of the aircraft, get it in the air and fly it willy-nilly over a major U.S. metropolitan area for nearly an hour.

As he flew in loops and zigzags into the sunset with Air Force F-15s shadowing him, spectators on the ground followed him across the sky with their phones, thinking it was an air show.

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

Within minutes of the theft, the two F-15s were scrambled and were in the air, flying at supersonic speeds from their Portland air base to intercept the aircraft, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which oversees airspace protection in North America.

The jets were armed but did not fire on the aircraft, said Air Force Capt. Cameron Hillier, a NORAD spokesman. Officials declined to describe the circumstances in which they would bring down an aircraft with a missile, citing operational security, but Hillier did say any decision would involve "a lot of collaboration" between pilots, commanders on the ground and others.

The F-15 pilots attempted to divert the aircraft toward the Pacific Ocean while maintaining radio communication with controllers and Russell. The jets flew close enough to make visual contact, Hillier said.

Russell eventually told controllers that fuel was low and an engine was failing. Then he plunged the aircraft into a wooded area on sparsely inhabited Kentron Island, 25 miles south of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, setting trees ablaze.

Federal officials released few details Saturday about the hijacking, but airline executives said Russell had been an employee since 2015, and he possessed security clearances to gain access to the plane. He was also familiar with the towing tractors that move aircraft on the tarmac. He used one to back the plane out of a maintenance area, then climbed into the cockpit and roared down the runway.

Brad Tilden, the CEO of Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon Air, told reporters Saturday the incident "is going to push us to learn from this tragedy and make sure this does not happen again at Alaska or any other airline."

But he and other airline executives declined to say what measures they could take to prevent someone with security badges from doing it again.

Tilden said his industry operates on the principle of checking the backgrounds of employees, not locking down airplanes in secure areas.

"The doors to the airplanes are not keyed like a car," he said.

Congress is already seeking to tighten the screening of airport employees and may do so with more urgency now, said Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department.

The United States has approximately 900,000 aviation workers, according to the most recent federal data, and Schiavo said screening procedures are "pretty rudimentary."

While pilots undergo periodic medical exams, she noted, airline mechanics and ground crew members are checked on a much more limited basis that does not include mental health exams.

Though aircraft mechanics have broad access and routinely taxi planes along the tarmac, Schiavo said, ground crew members are not supposed to be allowed inside cockpits, which have locking doors. But she said those security procedures are not always observed, especially for smaller commuter aircraft such as the Bombardier Q400. "It can be a little more casual and a little loosey-goosey, especially if they are doing overnight maintenance," she said.

Authorities were quick to assure the public that Friday's incident was not viewed as an act of terrorism. But the apparent ease with which the Horizon employee stole the plane points to the challenge of stopping "inside threat" attacks.

Richard Bloom, an aviation security expert at Arizona's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said he wasn't aware of another incident in the United States in which a ground crew member managed to steal an airplane. Incidents of aviation workers attempting to aid terrorists or drug traffickers are far more common globally.

But setting up a comprehensive screening system to evaluate the mental health of aviation workers would be difficult, Bloom cautioned, and it would risk rejecting large numbers of workers who do not pose a danger.

"There are such significant challenges to preventing inappropriate security behavior," he said. "It's kind of surprising that these types of things don't happen more often."

A bipartisan House bill, approved last year, calls for more stringent standards in employee background checks and increased surveillance of secure areas at airports. A Senate version of the bill has yet to come up for a vote.

The bill followed a February 2017 House Homeland Security Committee report warning of vulnerabilities that could allow terrorists and criminals to get jobs as aviation workers. Concerns over mental health were not a focus of the report.

But those worries have increased in recent years, analysts say, particularly after the 2015 crash of a Germanwings flight, whose co-pilot deliberately steered the plane into a French mountainside, killing 144 passengers and five crew members.

The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had been treated for depression and psychiatric problems but concealed the information from his employer. Once the flight was airborne, Lubitz locked his more senior pilot out of the cockpit.

Gary Beck, the CEO of Horizon Air, told reporters he didn't know whether Russell was trained as a pilot, but he called the flight "incredible."

At one point, an air traffic controller urged Russell to land at the airfield of a nearby military base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh man," Russell said, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there. I think I might mess something up there, too. I wouldn't want to do that."

Russell described his experience flying in video games and asked for the coordinates to the orca whale that has been pushing her dead calf through Washington state's coastal waters for nearly three weeks.

"You know, the mama orca with the baby," he said. "I want to go see that guy."

Resources: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24-hour, confidential assistance if you or someone you know needs help: 1-800-273-TALK (8255),

– – –

The Washington Post's Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

On the menu for northern snowshoe hares: Dirt

Sat, 2018-08-11 16:50

A snowshoe hare in Wiseman licks the drippings tray from Clutch Lounsbury’s grill. (Ned Rozell)

The evidence is in: Snowshoe hares near Wiseman eat lots of dirt.

"I have thousands and thousands of photos of hares eating soil in this one little spot," said Donna DiFolco, a biologist and cartographer with the National Park Service.

DiFolco has studied hares in the eastern portion of Gates of the Arctic National Park since 1997. That's when she started counting hare tracks near Wiseman as part of a lynx study.

A few years after that, the hares disappeared, as did the many creatures that eat them.

Since then, hares around Wiseman have started to boom, lynx have followed, and DiFolco, collaborating with UAF's Knut Kielland, now uses GPS collars and trail cams. That newish technology helps her confirm what researchers have seen in the lab and Wiseman residents have noticed at river banks: Snowshoe hares are engaging in geophagy, and, unlike the lynx that eat them, they are probably better off for it.

Geophagy is the word for a living creature eating soil. It's unusual for people, except for pregnant women in Africa who buy it at open-air markets, but many wild animals visit mineral licks and chomp away.

[Why only female mosquitoes bother us (and other facts about the insects Alaskans love to hate)]

Years ago, Wiseman resident and naturalist Jack Reakoff mentioned to DiFolco and UAF biologist Knut Kielland that hares were beating a winter path to an exposed bluff on the Hammond River.

Jack Reakoff of Wiseman. (Ned Rozell)

With Reakoff's help, the scientists have since mapped more than 40 mineral lick sites not far from Wiseman. DiFolco has deployed her trail cameras at a few of them.

The cameras confirmed that hares were indeed eating soil, something Suzanne Worker also found in a Fairbanks lab. Worker, a graduate student who worked with Kielland, created discs of soil she got from the Hammond River and offered them captive hares. She found that the ones that ate the soil seemed to eat more willow leaves and were able to maintain their weight better than those that didn't. Why? The compounds in dirt may help hares offset chemical defenses plants produce to make themselves bitter or otherwise unpleasant.

DiFolco has analyzed the area's soils and vegetation to find the chemicals within. The white powder visible on the Hammond bluffs is a precipitate that contains almost pure magnesium. The bluff soil also has calcium and sodium. Eating it is like taking mineral supplement pills.

"It's better than what they get with vegetation," DiFolco said.

Hares that eat a lot of dirt might be more lethargic than those that don't. Lynx that eat a lot of soil-eating hares can develop purple muscle tissue, Reakoff observed while trapping.

"Lynx feeding on geophagic hares (on the Hammond River) may be . . . ingesting a dietary supplement of magnesium," DiFolco wrote in a review paper.

Those lynx might accumulate a slight overdose of heavy metals in their systems, which can leave them skinnier and less healthy, even in times like this, when hares in the Wiseman area are near peak population numbers.

"(Wiseman resident) Heidi Schoppenhorst told me she saw 20 hares the other night on her drive home (from Coldfoot, 12 miles away)," DiFolco said.

Snowshoe hare population explosions in the Wiseman area may happen every 20 years rather than the 10-year peak seen in other areas, according to Reakoff.

"When the hares are up, we see everything," DiFolco said. "I never see hawk owls when the hares aren't around.

[This scientist has been tracking the peregrine falcon's recovery in Alaska over nearly 5 decades]

"Lynx were completely absent for a while," she said. "We saw a couple tracks in 2009 and '10, then trappers started to catch a few in 2014."

Kielland and graduate student Claire Montgomerie have been live-trapping lynx in the area and monitoring their movements as part of a project involving great-horned owls, lynx, and the animal that enables the ecosystem, the snowshoe hare.

Now that Wiseman-area hares are all over the place, DiFolco is glad she kept up with the study, even through the lean years. She now has a record of the important little creatures for the last 20-plus years and, even though she's got a lot more to learn, is satisfying her curiosity of long ago, when she wondered why an animal might eat dirt.

A snowshoe hare in Wiseman. (Ned Rozell)

How could an airport ground crew employee steal and fly an airliner?

Sat, 2018-08-11 16:11

A plane flies past a control tower at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening, Aug. 10, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. An airline mechanic stole an Alaska Airlines plane without any passengers and took off from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state on Friday night before crashing near Ketron Island, officials said. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

A picture of how an airliner was stolen from Sea-Tac International Airport on Friday evening is beginning to emerge.

Investigators and airline officials are tracing the sequence of events that led to a Horizon Air employee taking off without permission in one of the company's turboprop passenger planes.

Findings, when they come, will almost certainly lead to changes in aviation protocols.

[Report: Airline employee who stole Sea-Tac plane previously from Wasilla]

The plane crashed on Ketron Island, off the shore of Steilacoom, killing the pilot — the only person on board.

The alleged thief, identified in audio recordings as Rich, was not employed as a pilot. He was identified as a ground service agent Friday by Alaska Airlines, Horizon's parent corporation. On Saturday, Alaska said he handled baggage and towed aircraft at the airport.

The man used that tow knowledge to rotate the plane 180 degrees while it was parked in a cargo area Friday evening, Alaska officials said. After that, he started the plan, taxied to a runway and took off.

He appeared to be suicidal, based on his conversations with air traffic control. But the potential for a disaster, if Rich had wished to harm others, is sobering.

As the incident unfolded in the skies over Puget Sound, a Pearl Jam concert was being held at Safeco Field, and the plane traveled over highly populated residential and commercial areas.

Aviation consultant and retired airline pilot Dan Stratman told The News Tribune that it wouldn't have been unusual for an individual working in ground support to have access to the cockpit.

"Even just ground people working on the planes, they have access to inside the planes on ramp," Stratman said. "He could have just sat in the cockpit, and no one would have thought otherwise, being in the plane with a badge."

Stratman, author of aviation thriller "Mayday," said ground crews don't go through psychological screening.

Most ground crew members working at airports have a "basic knowledge" of how airplanes function, said Debra Eckrote, NTSB regional chief.

No records for a pilot license for the man thought to have stolen the plane could be found on the Federal Aviation Administration website. Alaska officials said, to the best of the airline's knowledge, the man did not have a pilot license.

A pilot who regularly flies in and out of Sea-Tac for a commercial carrier said on Friday that an employee who was "taxi qualified" could combine that knowledge with YouTube videos and easily purchased computer flight simulator programs to learn to fly an airplane.

Stratman agreed and said Microsoft simulators are available online with extremely accurate representations.

The commercial pilot, who was not authorized to speak to the media, said the Bombardier Q400 aircraft has the same autopilot systems used on Boeing and Airbus jets. It didn't appear Rich used autopilot Friday.

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

The stolen plane is a twin-engine turboprop designed for shorter distance flights. It can carry 76 passengers and has boarding doors in both the front and rear of the plane.

In conversations with a pilot on the ground, it appeared Rich wasn't fully knowledgeable with the plane's instruments yet knew enough about flying to perform aerobatics with the airliner.

The working commercial pilot said if the weather is clear, as it was Friday, instrument knowledge isn't as crucial to flying as it is at night or in poor weather.

At one point, Rich flew the plane upside down in a barrel roll, coming within feet of the water before pulling up. Rich complained of feeling lightheaded.

"I would like to get some, uh, make it pressurized or something so I'm not so light-headed," Rich told ground control.

A plane flying at low altitude doesn't need to be pressurized.

"He never got to high altitude, and there should have been no problem with pressurization," pilot Stratman said.

"More likely if he was lightheaded, that was caused by the aerobatics," Stratman said in a phone interview from Kansas City. "That can throw your inner ear out of balance, even for an experienced pilot it can make you dizzy and queasy."

Alaska said the plane was parked in a "maintenance position" in a cargo area of the airport and not involved with loading or unloading passengers.

There are no keys to an airliner. Planes are turned on using a variety of switches.

It will be up the FBI to get to the bottom of how he did it and why, Eckrote said.

Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker

Sat, 2018-08-11 16:09

Traffic arrives at Sea-Tac International Airport terminal Friday evening, Aug. 10, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. An airline mechanic stole an Alaska Airlines plane without any passengers and took off from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state on Friday night before crashing near Ketron Island, officials said.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The airline employee who took a plane from Sea-Tac Airport on Friday night and performed mid-air stunts over South Puget Sound before crashing on an island was 29-year-old Richard Russell, according to multiple sources, including one in law enforcement.

"He was a quiet guy. It seemed like he was well liked by the other workers," said Rick Christenson, an operational supervisor with Horizon Air who retired in May. "I feel really bad for Richard and for his family. I hope they can make it through this."

Russell was presumed killed in the crash of the Horizon Air Bombardier Q400 turboprop on Ketron Island, just west of Steilacoom. Investigators were searching the site Saturday.

A man who answered the door of the Graham home of Russell's mother-in-law Saturday afternoon said the family is in shock and were awaiting more information before speaking to the media. Relatives were arriving at the home as members of the media gathered outside.

Russell worked as a member of Horizon's tow team, Christenson said, and helped handle baggage for the airline.

[Report: Airline employee who stole and crashed Sea-Tac plane had lived in Wasilla]

Two-person tow teams are responsible for moving airplanes on the tarmac. One person drives a tow tug, pulling the plane. The other communicates with the tower from inside the airplane's cockpit and can apply the plane's brakes in an emergency, Christenson said.

Tow teams are trained how to use some airplane systems such as the auxiliary power unit, hydraulics and radios, said Christenson, who did not know Russell well.

Before he realized Russell was involved, Christenson watched as the incident played out Friday night. Christenson was sitting on the deck outside his cousin's home, looking out at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and Puget Sound as the sun reddened and fell into summer's haze.

"It was absolutely beautiful," he said.

Suddenly, two F-15 fighter jets appeared, and took a hard turn south.

"I said, something's weird. Something's not right here."

Ten minutes later, he said, a commercial plane cruised about 500 feet above his cousin's home, he said.

"We got binoculars and were watching him. He was flying real strange, hard banks, real radical flying for a Dash-8," Christenson said.

The plane would plunge toward the water in a nose dive.

"We were all screaming, 'Oh my god, oh my god,' and I was yelling, 'Pull up, pull up,' " Christenson said.

Somehow, the plane pulled out of a descent, seemingly just feet from the water.

Later, when he saw a pool of black smoke farther south, "I knew what happened," Christenson said.

Word soon spread among former colleagues.

"Everybody's stunned … that something like this would happen," Christenson said. "How could it? Everybody's been through background checks."

He said it was difficult to listen to the audio, widely published on news websites, as Russell communicated with an air traffic controller.

"It's chilling listening to this young man. It makes me cringe," Christenson said. "It was hard to sleep last night."

I'm listening through the archive of the radio chatter on the #seatac hijacking. Below are some of the clips.

— Jimmy Thomson (@jwsthomson) August 11, 2018

Airline and law enforcement officials did not publicly confirm Russell's identity, but provided some details of his background and how he acquired the plane.

"He worked a shift yesterday. We believe he was in uniform," said Brad Tilden, the chief executive officer of Alaska Air Group, which is the parent company to Horizon Air. "It was his job to be around airplanes."

[How could an airport ground crew employee steal and fly an airliner?]

Tilden, speaking at a news conference at Sea-Tac Airport, said Russell had been with the company for nearly four years.

Tilden said the plane was parked at Plane Cargo 1, in the north side of the airport. The plane was not scheduled to fly Friday evening.

"The individual did use a pushback tractor to rotate the aircraft 180 degrees so he could then taxi the aircraft," said Mike Ehl, a Port of Seattle official, confirming that the man did that himself, first driving the tractor and then the plane.

Just after 7:30 p.m., Russell took off. Tilden said the traffic-control tower "did know this was an unauthorized departure."

Horizon CEO Gary Beck said the ground-service agent, who is not believed to have a pilot's license, pulled off some "incredible maneuvers" once airborne. "Commercial aircraft are complex machines," he said. "So I don't know how he achieved the experience that he did."

Authorities believe the crash involved one person. "I think at this time we believe he was the only one in the aircraft. But of course we haven't confirmed that at the crash site," said Jay S. Tabb Jr., the special agent in charge of the FBI's Seattle division.

Asked about Russell's mental state, Tabb said, "It's way too early to comment on that. I'm sorry."

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department on Friday night speculated Russell may have crashed the plane intentionally.

According to sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer, that theory was based on Russell's recorded conversation with air traffic control and at least one pilot who were trying to talk the man they called "Rich" into a safe landing.

Russell said at one point that he didn't know how to land the plane and "wasn't really planning on landing it." He also apologized to all the people who loved him, who he said would be disappointed with his actions.

The audio recording also seems to indicate that Russell was weighing the consequences of his actions. He said he didn't want to land at Joint Base Lewis-McChord because he was concerned people would "rough" him up there and said, "This is probably like, uh, jail time for life, huh?"

Toward the end of the recording, after he has apparently completed an aerial maneuver, a pilot said, "Congratulations. You did that. Now let's try to land that airplane safely and not hurt anybody on the ground."

Russell responded, "Ah, dammit. I don't want to. I don't want to. I was kind of hoping that was going to be it."

Some audio from the exchanges is unclear and provides a murky window into his thinking.

"Think I'm gonna try to do a barrel roll and if that goes good, I'm just going to nose it down and call it a night," he said toward the end of the recorded audio. What he meant by "nose it down" was unclear.

Russell was born in Key West, Florida and moved to Wasilla, Alaska at age 7, according to a blog he apparently maintained through December 2017. Biographical details in the blog posts correspond to information provided by authorities, including the city in which Russell lived, his age and the details of his employment.

The blog also links to social media websites that use the nickname "Beebo" Russell. Biographical information on those sites also correspond to what authorities have shared about Russell.

On the blog, Russell says he met his wife in Coos Bay, Oregon, in 2010 while both were going to school.

They married one year later and one month after that they opened a bakery in Oregon, which they ran successfully for three years.

Russell, who didn't have baking experience, was his wife's apprentice, he told the Coos Bay World for a 2012 article. She told the newspaper Russell was laid-back and liked to tinker with experimental recipes.

Russell was active as a leader in the Christian youth ministry, Young Life.

"He was very, very friendly — automatically willing to bring everyone in. He was very involved in the youth if somebody needed to talk," said Hannah Holmes, now 25. "A lot of the people he was helping were troubled kids."

Holmes said Russell had a penchant for writing, and would sometimes ask her for short story writing prompts.

In 2015, Russell and his wife moved to Washington "because we were both so far removed from our families," he wrote in the blog. " … we settled on Sumner because of its close proximity to her family."

Russell says he got a job working for Horizon Airlines and used his travel benefits to fly up to Alaska. Videos posted on his blog detailed visits to Dublin, Ireland, Misty Fjords National Monument in Alaska, and southeastern France.

"In this season of life we enjoy exploring as much as possible, whether its a day (or so) trip to one of Alaska Airline's destinations, or visiting a new area of Washington. "We consider ourselves bakery connoisseurs and have to try a new one every place we go," he wrote.

At times Friday, it sounded like Russell was sightseeing from the air.

Russell told the air traffic controller he'd flown around Mount Rainier and looked at the Olympic Mountains.

"The sights went by so fast," he said. "I was thinking I would have this moment of serenity. I would be able to take in all the sights. There was a lot of pretty stuff, but, I think they're prettier in a different context."

Seattle Times staff reporters Scott Greenstone, Agueda Pacheco-Flores, Matt Day, Daniel Beekman and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story.

From Anchorage to Fairbanks, infidelity and its aftermath in new collection of short stories, ‘In the Quiet Season’

Sat, 2018-08-11 15:21

In the Quiet Season

Martha Amore, University of Alaska Press/Alaska Literary Series, 112 pages, 2018. $16.95

“In the Quiet Season,” is a collection of short stories by Martha Amore

"In the Quiet Season," the opening story of the recent short fiction collection of the same name by Anchorage author Martha Amore, finds a couple — whose marriage has taken a deep self-inflicted wound — out gathering firewood in the forest near Fairbanks when they come across a badly injured eagle. Tara, the wife, whose recent act of infidelity is the cause of the marriage's decline, wants to save the bird by taking it to the emergency pet clinic. Her husband Ted, who serves as narrator, wants to leave it to its fate.

The bird is, of course, a metaphor for the marriage. Tara, a teacher, had cheated on Ted the previous winter, destroying 15 years of trust in one night. The choice they make in whether or not to save the eagle reflects the choice they confront in whether or not to save the marriage.

Amore, who teaches writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage, is treading on familiar ground for literary fiction. Too familiar to be honest, and she sticks with formula for the next two stories, each involving marital betrayal and little more. Twenty-eight pages and three stories in, readers can be forgiven for thinking that the book will be a collection of mundane tales of urban professionals who cheat on their spouses and nothing more. Apart from being set in Alaska, there seems to be little here that differentiates this book from work found in the average literary journal. Therefore it becomes tempting to decide that it's not going anywhere and set it aside.

This would be a mistake.

The next three stories in this collection of a half dozen take off in ways that the first three don't even suggest possible. And while infidelity remains a common theme throughout the entire set, what follows are tales that will draw readers into them in ways the first three don't.

What's lacking in the early stories is clear character development and context. The individuals are never defined beyond their marital failings. Why they cheat isn't really explained. Boredom perhaps. But when Amore turns her attention to creating more fully fleshed-out stories where the infidelity is a background factor rather than the plot driver, things begin to happen.

In "Long Weekend," a recently divorced woman named Barbara, living in her home in Anchorage, is visited by her mother, a brash character who blasts into this book and suddenly makes it seem real. Barbara's mother is a bold, hard-driving, controlling and excessively proud sort who had even named her daughter after herself. She arrives intent on taking over her daughter's life and setting it into what she considers proper order.

The elder Barbara is a whirlwind and one of the two most human characters in this book. The standoff between her and her daughter, who narrates the story, is perfectly timed by Amore, who builds the tensions between the two to the inevitable point where both have to acknowledge that their mother-daughter relationship can only remain stable if each fully acknowledges the independence of the other.

The next story, "Painkillers," is even stronger. Here we find Henry, a down-on-his-luck Anchorage resident, who is running a housekeeping business with his photographer girlfriend Anna. In this story, infidelity is suspected but never confirmed. Anna is readying for her first opening at a gallery with the help of a man Henry has not met, but whom she doesn't quit talking about.

Anna remains offstage for most of the tale, and we learn the suspicions from Henry, the narrator. We also discover that the couple has taken to stealing prescription drugs from the clients whose houses they clean. Henry is popping pills all the way through the story as he falls into an unexpected friendship with one of those customers and tries to come to terms with what he suspects is a relationship in its final throes. As his life falls apart, Henry emerges as the most sympathetic character in the book.

This is the first story to feel genuinely Alaskan, although not in the traditional way. Through Henry, Amore is exploring the hopelessness that besets poorer residents of Anchorage who find themselves in a city where things can happen that wouldn't elsewhere — like the sudden appearance of a moose downtown — but who are stuck in dead-end lives fully removed from the wilderness just beyond. It's a reality for many people in urban Alaska (and one detailed with remarkable clarity in Mary Kudenov's 2017 nonfiction book "Threadbare"). In the realm of Alaskan literature, this is an unusual setting, and all the more welcome for it.

The longest and most emotionally draining tale is the last one, "Weathered In." It begins in Talkeetna, where a young woman named Rachel and her boyfriend Karl have arrived to climb Denali. Both are restless travelers and climbers with little thought for the future. The day before departing for the mountain, Karl decides that Rachel is to be left behind, however, owing to an unknown illness.

As Rachel suspects, she's pregnant. The story follows the couple's trajectory as they decide to make their home in Alaska. Karl, however, suffering from the selfishness that's practically required of anyone who wants to climb mountains, is soon back at it, becoming an absentee father while Rachel remains home with the baby and the dog. While Karl lives his dreams, she's anchored down in Anchorage.

This story feels very Alaskan as well, what with the mountaineering. And again the infidelity, when it comes, is important to the story, though not central to it. Amore sticks with her theme but places it in a context never found in the three opening stories.

Amore creates compelling characters and interesting plots in the second half, inadvertently highlighting how the first three stories feel like throwaways. She's a writer who needs to spend more time building her characters and creating their lives. When she does this she gives readers something to hold onto.

Tourism season is winding down; that means sweet in-state deals for Alaskans

Sat, 2018-08-11 14:39

The view of Homer Spit and Kachemak Bay on a beautiful fall day. Lands End Resort on the spit, along with other Alaska lodges, is offering end-of-season deals. (Photo by Scott McMurren)

It's not just airlines that drop prices as fall approaches. Vacations and holidays of all sorts kick in their "value-pricing" after the peak summer travel period has ended. Those specials start at different times in different places. But the overriding theme is this: when fewer travelers are on the road, prices go down. Occasionally, there also are some special events.

Alaska Travel Adventures runs a handful of activities for cruise passengers in the southeast Alaska ports of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway: Jeep tours, kayak trips and salmon bakes. But the company also has a fleet of RVs for rent. Between now and Sept. 30, the company is running a 50 percent off sale. You have to rent the RV for at least four days. And there's a mileage charge: 35 cents a mile or $39 per day for unlimited miles. The actual cost varies by the length of the RV, how many days you rent and the specific date. The regular prices range from $129 to $249 per day. So, take 50 percent off of that. Use the discount code "Staycation 50" when you call (800-323-5757).

ABC Motorhome Rentals also has a sale for fall rentals: $99 per night between Aug. 28 and Sept. 30. There is a five-night minimum rental required. The special applies to 22-, 24- and 30-foot motorhomes (800-421-7456).

Cruise companies are not bashful about offering discounts. If you haven't seen southeast Alaska, a cruise from Seward or Whittier down the coast can be a great way to go. Checking on, there are several late-season specials, including:

– Norwegian Jewel, sailing on Aug. 27 from Seward. Ports include Skagway, Hoonah, Juneau, Ketchikan and Vancouver, B.C. The seven-night cruise offers cabins with ocean views for $563 per person, double occupancy.

– Star Princess, sailing on Sept. 8 from Whittier. Ports include Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan and Vancouver, B.C. The lowest price for the seven-night cruise is the same: $563 per person, double. But that's for an inside cabin. Upgrade to ocean view for $614 per person.

There are many other dates and ships from which to choose. All of the cross-gulf cruises that I checked end up in Vancouver, B.C. So it's up to you to buy your own air ticket back to Anchorage. The cruises also run northbound.

Down at Alyeska Resort, they have a "Summer Tram" and a "Fall Tram" package. The Summer Tram package starts on Aug. 19 for $229 per room. The package includes tram tickets for two adults and three kids. On Sept. 16, the price drops to $149 per room for the "Fall Tram" special.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rockwell Kent's time on Fox Island in Resurrection Bay, Kenai Fjords Tours and the Anchorage Museum are hosting a dinner and lecture by historian Doug Capra. Fox Island, of course, is a much more comfortable destination now than it was 100 years ago. The special tour on Sat., Aug. 25 is from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $82 per person.

The Alaska Railroad is offering its annual "Great Alaska Beer Train" on Oct. 6. The train rolls gently along between Anchorage and Portage while passengers enjoy beer from the Glacier Brewhouse and dinner. Cost is $182 per person.

The Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is putting on a fall wine dinner Sept. 15. All of the wines at the dinner will be from Rombauer Vineyards. The six-course dinner features some interesting ingredients, including elk, duck and rabbit. Cost for just the dinner is $125 per person. But it's a good idea to spend the night. Room rates start at $99 per night.

Take a drive to the end of the road at the Homer Spit this fall. Land's End Resort, at the end of the spit, offers a "Getaway Package" for overnight accommodations and dinner for two. The cost starts at $139 per room and goes up if you want a nicer room with a view of the ocean. Land's End runs this package through the winter from Sept. 19, 2018 til April 30, 2019.

[11 glacier adventures near Anchorage]

If you haven't made it out to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, maybe this is the year! Kennicott Glacier Lodge offers a late-season special for as little as $99 per night between Aug. 15 and Sept. 8. You can opt for a "glacier view" room for a little more: $169 per night. It's a five-hour drive from Anchorage to Chitina. The last 60 miles is a go-slow road, similar to the Denali Highway between Cantwell and Paxson. Thirty-five miles per hour is a good speed there. When you reach McCarthy, there's a phone by the footbridge where you can call the lodge to come and get you.

Whether you're going by land, sea or rail, there are some fun options for fall travel right here in the Great Land.

The tee box is stressful enough without politics

Sat, 2018-08-11 14:34

The Anchorage Golf Course on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Maintaining dignity while golfing is hard enough without bringing politics onto the tee box.

For instance, whenever I pull-hook my tee shot on a short par 4 and can't find the ball and have to walk back to the tee box only to slice the next out of bounds and then top my third drive into the rough short of the ladies' tee box (suddenly lying five), my first impulse is to helicopter that good-for-nothing, $399 driver — WHUMP whump whump — toward the dumpster in the parking lot.

But instead, I'm learning to be more dignified. I'm learning to take a deep breath, slide the big club back into my bag while realizing the error of my ways — should've used the 3 hybrid — wisdom I can now pass down, because isn't that the ultimate gift of golf and the secret to living a useful life?

Then came the day this summer when my golf buddy Tim and I got paired up with two other golfers. I knew at once my dignity would be tested.

Tim and I are golf-compatible. We know and respect each other's game. Case in point: I know that when Tim questions his game out loud, as in, "Why did I just do that?" he really doesn't want an answer. And when I chunk a chip, Tim knows it's OK to say, "That's not like you, Tony," but only after I putt out.

Anyway, we were on the first tee when two guys in a cart motored up to the box. We had already hit our drives. "Mind if we join you?" said the guy at the wheel as he got out and pulled his driver.

"I guess that was one of those rhetorical questions," I whispered to Tim.

There were the quick introductions and small talk, dominated by this guy who maintained that Oregon's golf courses are much better than Alaska's. Who could argue? His buddy said nothing. I liked that guy.

The talker laughed at his own jokes, like, "Better bring your weed whacker in there with you, ha, ha, ha." Then he did worse. He kept talking to Tim's ball, as in, "Don't go in there, ball! Don't. DON'T. Oops." I could see Tim's face redden. Tim would rather people not offer unsolicited advice to him or to his golf ball. But Tim maintained his dignity, as I did mine.

That is, until the 15th hole. We were waiting for the group ahead to clear the green. Pace of play had been slow all day. Tim knows I can get testy when groups ahead show little to no course awareness. My patience was stretched thinner because I had to listen to the talker while waiting. Fortunately, by the third hole or so I had begun to block out that noise. "Blah blah blah, Oregon." "Blah blah blah, ha, ha, ha." "Blah Blah Blah, Obama."

OK. That's e-freakin'-nuff!

"Hey, no politics on the tee box," I said, interrupting the talker.

"Ha ha. … Huh?" he said.

"No politics on the tee box. What, you don't already know that?"

I would not go as far as to say it's an unwritten rule. But in the hundreds of rounds of golf I've played with people I don't know very well, politics rarely pops up in conversation, and when it does, the topic quickly dies in awkward silence. Not so with the talker.

"I'll say my opinion wherever I please," he said. "What did Obama do? Nothing. In eight years, Nothing! Trump is doing something!"

I lost it. "Yeah, your boy is doing something, alright. He's turning America into a horse's ass!"

The talker just laughed. He knew he had me.

"You Trumpers!" I said. "I have to golf with you now?"

The quiet old man began to stir. "Hey, I voted for Trump too, by God. And I'm proud to say it."

I looked to Tim. He seemed to be embarrassed. "Can't we just golf, guys?" he said.

But the old man did not want to golf with us anymore. So Tim and I hit and walked off without them.

It occurred to me that I did not know much about Tim's politics. Did I offend Tim, too? It's funny that golf buddies can go years without knowing such things about each other.

"I'm sorry, Tim."

"Tony, I admire you for standing up to that guy."

"Well, I feel bad," I said. "I lost my dignity. And I like that old man!"

Suddenly, I walked off the 17th tee box toward the two Trumpers, driver in fist.

"Tony, don't!" Tim said.

"It's OK," I said.

I did not say anything until I got right up to them. They looked at me, ready to fight again. But I laid down my guns. Indeed, I leaned on my driver as if it were a crutch. "I'm sorry guys. I was out of line. Golf can bring out the worst in me sometimes."

The talker laughed. "Hey, we've all been there, ha ha ha." We shook hands.

Then I turned to the old man. He was the reason I came over. "Hey, I like some of what Trump is doing. But I also like some of what Obama did — or didn't do," I said. "Can we have both?"

I reached out my hand. He shook. Not very firmly. But he shook.

I returned to the tee box, twirling my driver like a baton.

"What did you say?" Tim asked.


"Why? What you said needed to be said."

"Maybe, but not by me — and not on the tee box."

Tim absolutely crushed his drive.

"Go ball, go!" I said.

Tim gave me the stink eye.

Tony Bickert is a former Alaska journalist, current teacher and avid golfer.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Letter: PFD cuts not Walker’s fault

Sat, 2018-08-11 13:17

Don't blame Gov. Bill Walker for cutting the dividend, blame former Sen. Mike Dunleavy and the state Senate Majority, who let the piggy bank run dry. They've been milking oil companies for campaign contributions for decades while refusing to make those companies pay what they pay other countries all around the world.

Empty piggy banks can't pay dividends.
Here is something Alaska's voters need to think about. The country of Norway has saved up 20 times as much as Alaska from the production of four times as much oil. Their oil came from deep water. It was more expensive per barrel to produce and therefore their net profit per barrel was less.

The difference is they keep between 80 percent and 90 percent of the profits, leaving 10 percent to 20 percent for the oil companies. We do close to a 50/50 split, and then we pay oil credits to oil companies from our share.
If we had kept and saved the same share of profits as Norway, our permanent fund and your dividend would both be about five times bigger today.
Blame Mike Dunleavy and the Senate Majority. Not Gov. Walker.
— Ray Metcalfe

Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Pacific storm expected to bring rain, strong winds to Southcentral Alaska

Sat, 2018-08-11 13:16

Southcentral Alaska can expect strong winds and heavy rain through Monday as the remnants of a former typhoon sweep through the region, according to the National Weather Service.

"The system will impact Kodiak Island early Sunday morning first and move up Cook Inlet and into the inland areas by Sunday afternoon," the agency said in a special weather statement. Rain and gusty winds are expected for the areas of Cook Inlet and the Susitna Valley from Sunday afternoon to early Monday morning.

Gusts of 50 mph or greater were considered "likely" in the areas expected to see the strongest winds, Turnagain Arm and along the Copper River, forecasters said. The Knik River Valley and parts of Anchorage may see gusts around 40 mph, the weather service said.

The rainfall is expected to raise water levels in rivers and streams, with streams coming out of the Talkeetna Mountains in the Susitna Valley of greatest concern.

"These area streams will likely approach bankfull conditions by Sunday night and continue into Monday or Tuesday," the weather service said.

Meanwhile, water levels in Bear Glacier Lagoon in Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward "are high and expected to remain high through Sunday morning," the statement read.

"Persons traveling or recreating in the area are urged to remain alert for rising water levels, potential flooding, and iceberg movement over the next few days," the weather service said.

A small craft advisory was also issued for Prince William Sound, with conditions expected to reach 25-knot winds and 6-foot seas Sunday night. A gale warning for lower Cook Inlet described conditions reaching 35-knot winds and 11-foot seas Sunday afternoon and evening.

The former Typhoon Shanshan brushed along the coast of Japan earlier this week — but didn't make landfall — before moving farther northeast into the Pacific, according to The Weather Channel.

Find the latest forecast for your area at

Letter: Be kind to the hungry

Sat, 2018-08-11 13:14

Thanks to Allison O'Leary for her compassionate letter about the homeless in our community. My friend from Fairbanks used to come to Anchorage regularly. She would stop in to see me and then leave to go get something to eat. She always offered to bring me something and I agreed. She never made it to my work with my food, and her story was that she gave it to a hungry person.

One night, we went over to one of the Fourth Avenue bars. On the way, we stopped in the park and sat to talk with some people on the lawn. It was a very strange experience. As we said "hi" to people walking by, no one acknowledged us — they just walked right past as if we didn't exist. I'd never felt that way before. We had bought some food and were eating it in the park, sharing it with our new friends. We realized we needed more food and took our new friends to a late-night eatery and got them some food. They were all appreciative and thankful. One man even did a beautiful Native dance for us and told us that he had danced in Washington, D.C., once for a special celebration.

Now when I see a hungry person, I try to give them food. I've stopped and bought hot sandwiches and hot chocolate to warm people on subzero nights. I've seen people stop and hand out bottles of water to keep them hydrated. I don't have much to give but am happy to share when I can. It pleases me that others do the same. Thank you, Allison, and all the others who try to help. I doubt that anyone has ever set out to be homeless and hungry. They are not invisible; they are people too. They are a part of our city, and any help we can give them is surely appreciated.
— Vicki Williams

Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

After dating all summer, I’m ready to go public with my new guy — but he wants ‘us’ to be a secret.

Sat, 2018-08-11 13:06

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

At the beginning of summer, I started seeing "Pete." We have been friends for years and I've had a crush on him a long time. I never thought it would go anywhere or that he might feel the same, so when things turned romantic with us back in May, I was so happy. The problem is we have kept our relationship a secret, and while I'm ready to go way public with it, Pete simply won't.

He says it's because it might make things weird with our friends; we regularly hang out with the same group of about 10 people, and we've all known each other for years. With the exception of one couple, there hasn't really been dating or even hookups (that I know of) within the group. The one couple that did form is really serious, practically married. Pete thinks if we tell people about us, it will mess up the group dynamics and people will treat us differently.

We got in yet another fight about this the other night because the group's annual Labor Day cabin weekend is coming up, and I told Pete he needed to ask for a private bedroom for us. He refused and said it was "too soon."

Well I stood up for myself. I said I was tired of being treated like a hookup and he needs to respect me and acknowledge our relationship. Pete said he isn't ready for that, and when I said fine, we can stop hanging out, he got teary-eyed and pleaded with me to give him time. He said he feels like he is falling for me and begged me not to give him ultimatums. I feel like two months was time enough, but I've fallen in love with him and don't want to lose him. What can I do?

Wanda says:

Meet Pete, a world-class compartmentalizer! He likes order, control, and everything tucked in neat little boxes! He also probably dines off those kiddie plastic plates that have separate areas for food so nothing touches, because ew, when things overlap like that, it's so messy and gross — or so thinks Pete, who no doubt wants everything in his life to stay the same forever and ever. Peter Pan is more like it.

With a friend squad as tight and long-standing as yours, it's unlikely a relationship or breakup with Pete would cause any worse tremors than a temporary period of awkwardness. Guess what? We're all adults, sometimes life is awkward, and it never killed anyone. Clearly the guy is scared, and nervous about his carefully arranged world getting shaken up and going sideways. Tough luck for him. Pete needs to get over it and put his big boy pants on. If he keeps you stuffed in this secret box, the resulting resentment will suffocate your affection and attraction and kill your chance at romance altogether.

Look, I'm not a huge fan of ultimatums, but I'm proud of you for sticking up for yourself and asserting Girlfriend Rights. Pete is more than a fling to you, and from his anguished and panicked reaction to your backing off, I would guess you mean quite a bit to him as well. Tell him you respect him, and that's why he's had all summer to warm to your coming out as a couple. And now it's time to just go for it. There's no reason you have to either wait for Pete's permission, or conversely, make some grand and dramatic announcement. Start by telling one or two of the friends you are close to. Trust me, everyone will know in no time – and in no time at all, it will be the new normal, and hardly a huge deal.

Wayne says:

No offense, but either your friend group isn't as tight as you think it is or they're even better at keeping secrets than you and Pete are. Frankly, I'm shocked that no one has noticed, or at least made a sarcastic accusation, that you and Pete have been hooking up.

Two people (especially when one of them is as anxious as Pete) can't sleep together and hide it from their besties for two months. You've had to at least made some slips or given off some subtle tells: a hand grazing a lower back, eyes locking across the bar, someone using "baby" in conversation, you two always "sharing an Uber" after a party.

Seriously guys, even complete strangers can smell new romance and physical chemistry in the air. It's a pungent odor! And real friends know all of your smooth moves, magic tricks, hiding spots and poker faces. So I'd bet the house that someone has a sneaking suspicion that something is going on, has announced that suspicion to others, and that your "secret relationship" is the worst-kept secret in the posse.

And even if your friends are clueless now, they won't be for very long. If you think trying-to-be-sneaky-about-dating friends is pretty awkward and obvious, try being recently-broken-up-from-a-secret-relationship friends! Everyone will feel, and smell, the tension, depression and confusion in the air — also quite pungent.

So, for Pete's sake, tell Pete to grow up and go public with you. It doesn't have to be a big production. Some simple hand-holding, a quick kiss or any basic PDA will suffice. And I'm sure they'll all be very happy for the two of you, if not relieved that you've finally confirmed what they already knew.

[Wayne and Wanda: A loving relationship — minus the 'L' word]

[My friends can't seem to accept that I'm happily dating a younger man]

Letter: Problem between steering wheel and seat

Sat, 2018-08-11 13:06

As I drive the highways, I notice more and more pickup trucks exceeding the posted speed limit by 10-20 mph. These pickups need to be recalled so that the loose nuts behind the wheel can be adjusted. Once that adjustment is made, the highways will be safer for all.
— Mike Gumbleton

Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Turn off devices, enjoy Alaska

Sat, 2018-08-11 13:02

One has to wonder why tourists bother to come to places like Alaska when they are so fixated on their iPads and iPods that they are oblivious of the point of their visit in the first place — not that Alaskans are different. Don't these people have lives beyond texting and babbling nonsense?

Let's face it, we have become a bunch of dumbed-down narcissists. Now the boosters want to bring in a million yakking tourists. What fun that will be for those few of us who would like to tune these people out, get a break from all this technological nonsense and experience some of what is left of our natural heritage.
— David McCargo

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Letter: Alaska needs more bear research, protection

Sat, 2018-08-11 12:59

Way to go to Bill Sherwonit for his excellent commentary on bears. I completely agree that the ADN should stop printing phrases like "killer bear" and that the recent killing of three innocent bears by the Department of Fish and Game is absolutely unacceptable.

Alaska needs some type of organization to finance research and protection of our bears. Perhaps state biologists and the University of Alaska could show some leadership to help with starting the organization. Alaska should be a world leader for bear research and protection. If nothing is done, Fish and Game will continue with their standard procedure of kill the bears — end of problem.
— Doug Bartko

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Letter: Being smart in bear country

Sat, 2018-08-11 12:55

Thank you to Bill Sherwonit for his article concerning the foolish killing of the Anchorage and Eagle River bears. He voiced the very same questions I had, and I'm glad someone out there is raising the question about the on-and-off search for the Eagle River bear.

They said it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack and then called it off, but then announced it was back on. What's up with that? Also, in regards to the recent article about cooking camp meals, I can't figure out why people cook meat in campgrounds — doesn't the smell of sizzling bacon or sausage send a clear invite to bears? Wouldn't it be better to eat and cook less fragrant meals in camp? I love breakfast sausage, too, but at a campsite in bear country?
— Alice Hildreth

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