SPLASH – An SUV makes a tremendous splash as it drives through a puddle on Lake Street Sunday morning.  A storm front Sunday and Monday morning brought with it torrential rain, thunder,  lightning and a power outage, but no major damage. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Alaskans Alarmed As Sea Ice Melts Early

    ANCHORAGE (AP) — Sea ice along northern Alaska disappeared far earlier than normal this spring, alarming coastal residents who rely on wildlife and fish.
    Ice melted as a result of exceptionally warm ocean temperatures, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
    The early melting has been “crazy,” said Janet Mitchell of Kivalina. Hunters from her family in early June traveled more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) by boat to find bearded seals on sea ice. Bearded seals in the past could be hunted just outside the village but sea ice had receded far to the north.
    “We didn’t know if we’d have our winter food,” she said. “That was scary.”
    The hunters ran out of gas after harvesting eight seals and a walrus. They were able to call other residents to deliver fuel, Mitchell said.

This Sept. 2, 2015, file aerial image shows the island village of Kivalina, an Alaska Native community of 400 people. Northern Alaska coastal communities and climate scientists say sea ice disappeared far earlier than normal this spring and it’s affecting wildlife.  (AP File Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    Rick Thoman, a climatologist with the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment & Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, posted on social media last week that the northern Bering and southern Chukchi seas are “baking.”
    Sea surface temperatures last week were as high as 9 degrees (5 Celsius) above the 1981-2010 average, reaching into the lower 60s, he said, with effects on the climate system, food web, communities and commerce. Kotzebue and Norton sounds were warmest but the heat extended far out into the ocean.
    The warmth is weeks ahead of schedule and part of a “positive feedback loop” compounded by climate change. Rising ocean temperatures have led to less sea ice, which leads to warmer ocean temperatures, he said.
    The last five years have produced the warmest sea-surface temperatures on record in the region, contributing to record low sea-ice levels.
    “The waters are warmer than last year at this time, and that was an extremely warm year,” Thoman said.
    Lisa Sheffield Guy of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States oversees an online platform that allows Alaska Native walrus hunters to share tips on sea ice, weather and hunting. The need for reporting ended May 31 because coastal sea ice had melted.
    “When we started in 2010, we would go until the last week of June,” she said.
    Guy is a seabird biologist who studied birds on St. Lawrence Island south of the Bering Strait. She’s worried that warmer temperatures will make it harder for seabirds to find the tiny seafood they eat, she said. The heat might push their prey deeper or away from the area.
    Warmer ocean temperatures come as hunters report large numbers of dead seals off Alaska’s western and northern coasts, Thoman said. An unusually large number of dead gray whales have also been found off Alaska’s southern coasts, where sea surface temperatures are also unusually high, Thoman said. It’s not known whether the warm water has contributed, Thoman said.
    “Certainly it’s all happening at the same time,” he said.
    In March, the high temperatures were blamed for a large ice shelf breaking from the coast near Nome in March, dragging tethered crab pots. Nick Treinen lost two crab pots and others lost more.
    “It was unprecedented for March,” he said.
    The ice also swept away gold mining equipment, forcing a helicopter rescue for three miners who unsuccessfully tried to save it.
    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct an unusually extensive fish survey in the Bering Strait this summer, Thoman said. It could provide clues for possible impacts to Bering Sea fisheries, he said.
   

August 5, 2020

A Note To Our Readers

Reopening: Phase One:

 

On March 30 the Daily Sitka Sentinel began taking precautions against the coronavirus, which was starting to show up in Alaska.

We closed our building to the public and four key employees started working remotely. Home delivery was suspended to protect our carriers from exposure to the virus.

Four months later, the virus is still with us and the precautions remain in effect.

In appreciation for the willingness of our subscribers to pick up their daily paper at drop-off sites, the Sentinel was free to all readers, and subscriptions were extended without charge.

As of August 1 the Sentinel is once again charging for subscriptions, but the present method of having subscribers pick up their papers at designated sites will continue.

The expiration date of all subscriptions has been extended without charge for an additional four months.

We thank our readers for their support in these uncertain times, and especially those who paid for the paper despite the free offer.

We look forward to the time when we can safely resume home delivery.

To check on the expiration of your subscription or to make a payment please call 747-3219. The subscription email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . We also will be mailing out reminder cards.

The single copy price is again 75 cents. The news racks do not require coins to open, but we ask that the 75 cents for a non-subscription single copy sale be paid with coins in the slot.

– The Sitka Sentinel Staff

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 9-28-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:50 a.m. Monday.

New cases as of Sunday: 115

Total statewide – 7,597

Total (cumulative) deaths – 56

Active cases in Sitka – 20 (11 resident; 9 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 44 (37 resident; 7 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 286.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2000

Sitka Open Golf Tournament winners are: Men’s Division – Semisi Funaki, Tom Mattingly and Gregory Martin. Women’s Division – Janet Schwartz, Judy Sudnikovich and Liza Martin. Youth Division – Elaina Mattingly, Matthew Way and Sidney Wyman.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1970

Lions Catch a Bear at Kake. They were on Lions Club business, but Willie Dick and Bill Pasek, Sitka, brought back a bear from Kake. Pasek shot the 6-foot-tall black bear after Lions Club business was ended. He and Dick brought the bear back to Sitka where Larry Ross and Dick Wight helped prepare it for a taxidermist.

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