Chamber Briefed on Landslide Monitors

Category: Local News
Created on Thursday, 03 October 2019 15:09

Sentinel Staff Writer
    The three new landslide detection units installed around Sitka should increase understanding of patterns that lead to landslides, a Chamber of Commerce audience was told Wednesday.
    Annette Patton, a post-doctoral candidate in earth sciences at the University of Oregon, spoke at the weekly chamber luncheon about Sitka’s new landslide detection system.
    Patton said that, using $2.1 million in grant money from the National Science Foundation, she had helped install the three landslide detection units. She noted that the project “was initiated by the 2015 storm here in Sitka.” That storm was a period of heavy rainfall that triggered a landslide that struck a subdivision lower on the mountainside, killing three men.
    Patton said she hoped that the detectors, which monitor soil moisture levels, would help scientists and Sitkans understand “when landslides will happen, and how much rain is too much.”

Annette Patton speaks at the Sitka Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday at the Westmark Sitka. (Sentinel Photo)

    She added that landslide detection could be problematic, because a system that gives lots of warning time could also issue false alarms, whereas a system tailored to reduce false alarms would reduce warning time.
    The monitoring stations are on Harbor Mountain, Gavan Hill, and Mt. Verstovia, and transmit data every five minutes, thereby providing timely information.
    Patton said that it was also important to study different types of storms. She hoped to find out “what happens when you have a really long, low intensity storm … or what happens when there’s a small storm before a big storm.”
    By gathering data over time, Patton said, it’s hoped experts can gain understanding of patterns that can lead to landslides.
    Information on the landslide grant is available on the RAND Corporation website, and the Sitka Sound Science Center, which is involved with the implementation of the grant, also has information at
    After Patton’s presentation, KCAW Station Manager Becky Meiers spoke about Raven Radio’s upcoming goals and initiatives.
    Meiers said KCAW’s membership drive to raise operational funds for the public radio station will start Monday. She said support is especially needed this year because the station has lost about 12% of its budget as a result of statewide funding cuts.
    Despite this, Meiers affirmed that KCAW’s “number one priority is continuity of service.”
    “People in Southeast Alaska want to hear about each other, they want to hear and be able to communicate with one another through the radio,” she said.
    Meiers said the Sitka station is updating its equipment to meet FCC standards, which greatly matters to “people on the water who are fishing, or on the shore, who are especially vulnerable to emergency weather situations.”
    She compared the role of the station to “a light in the darkness.”
    The Chamber meeting next Wednesday will focus on the upcoming Alaska Day festival and the medevac services provided in Sitka by Guardian Flight.