CHECKING IT OUT – Fia Turczynewycz, a visitor from Ohio, walks her dog,  Mani, past the Sitka National Historical Park Visitor Center this morning. Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph’s newly completed yellow cedar Waas’go pole, pictured in the background, was moved out of the park’s carving shed Thursday to make room for Joseph’s latest project – carving a Tlingit canoe with the aid of an apprentice. Joseph’s Waas’go pole is the third version of the Haida pole in the past century – a reproduction of a reproduction made in the 1930s by George Benson, which is placed inside the visitor center. Rangers are working on approval for a location along the park’s trail system for the new pole. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Grant to Assess Sitka Landslide Risks

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

The Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys announced Tuesday that the agency has received funding for a comprehensive landslide hazard assessment of the Sitka area.

The landslide assessment, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will include landslide mapping and hazard modeling for about 25 square miles of Sitka, said De Anne S.P. Stevens, chief of the engineering geology section for DGGS.

It will cover the entire populated area of Sitka, including all of Harbor Mountain, the main part of Sitka, the Indian River Valley and out to Sawmill Cove, Stevens said.

“We’re hoping to do slope stability and landslide hazard analysis,” she said.

The interest in studying Sitka followed the Aug. 18, 2015, landslides here that killed three people on Kramer Avenue and caused about $1 million in damage, Stevens said.

The study will use the new lidar data set collected earlier this year under a partnership between the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and DGGS, a division of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Lidar is a technology in which laser beams are used to measure the elevation of the ground.

“It allows us to generate a 3-D topographic land level map from which we can strip all trees and vegetation and look at what’s going on underneath,” Stevens said. “It’s incredibly useful for analyzing any sort of land surface process. Things like geomorphology ... looking at unstable slopes, old drainage channels. There’s a lot we can see.”

She said following the slides last year, there was a sudden recognition of “how imminent this sort of hazard is to the community.”

“It’s been known for a while that the area is prone to slides,” she said. She noted that soon after the slides, the U.S. Forest Service flew over the area and counted a total of 45 new slides that resulted from that day’s heavy rainfall on Chichagof and Baranof islands.

“This struck close to home – everybody’s hyper-aware we need to understand the hazard, especially in urbanized areas. ... We really need to take it seriously,” she said.

Stevens sent an email Tuesday to the Sitka Geohazards Task Force to inform the group of the news about FEMA funding. The Geohazards Task Force was organized by the Sitka Sound Science Center after the 2015 slides, and included scientists from a number of agencies in Sitka and from outside the community, Stevens said.

“... We at DGGS are eager to work with all of you to ensure the best possible analysis for the benefit of the safety and wellbeing of the community and people of Sitka,” Stevens said in the email.

She said the community has been supportive of learning more about the hazards. In April the Assembly passed a resolution in support of communitywide mapping.

Sitka hired the geotechnical firm Shannon and Wilson to complete a study of the south Kramer slide neighborhood, and asked for a preliminary assessment of the area above Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary, but City Administrator Mark Gorman said it makes more sense at this point to allow the DGGS work to go forward before more studies are done. 

“By doing it comprehensively it doesn’t highlight certain neighborhoods, which may disadvantage and impact land values,” he said today. “I think it’s more even-handed to do it all at once. ... It will be easier to accept the fact that there is an inherent risk whether you’re living at sea level or living on a hill. It’s more responsible approach to do a comprehensive look at the community, rather than piecemealing it out.”

Stevens said she is looking at a two-year time line to complete the studies, and the results will be shared with the public as they come out.

 

 

 

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Alaska COVID-19 
At a Glance

(updated 9-17-21)

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 10:47 a.m. Friday.

New cases as of Thursday: 875

Total statewide – 96,002

Total (cumulative) deaths – 454

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 2,207

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

COVID in Sitka

The COVID alert rate for Sitka is “high,” based on 14 new COVID cases in the past 7 days, a rate of 187.73 per 100,000 population. Alert status will be high until the rate per thousand is below 100. Case statistics are as of Thursday.

New cases in Sitka – 5

Cases in last 7 days – 16

Cumulative Sitka cases – 946

Positive cumulative test results in Sitka, as of 9/10/21 – 1,090

Deceased (cumulative) – 3

The local case data are from the City of Sitka website.

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Sitka Vax Stats 

The State of Alaska DHSS reported Friday the following statistics on vaccinations for Sitka.

Partially vaccinated – 6,132 (83.03%)

Fully vaccinated – 5,991 (81.12%)

Total population (12+) – 7,385

Sitka has vaccinated fully vaccinated 89.85 percent of its senior population (1,478 total), age 65 and older. 

Vaccination data for the City and Borough of Sitka can be found online at: https://cityofsitka.org

 

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20 YEARS AGO
September 2001

Alaska Pacific Bank has opened an account for donations to be directed to the families of the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11. The account has been opened with a $2,000 contribution from the bank and an anonymous donor.

50 YEARS AGO
September 1971

At the Sitka Historical Society’s meeting Sunday, Mrs. Esther Billman of Sheldon Jackson College presented a “surprise package” of recent donations to the Sheldon Jackson Museum by Mr. Hugh Brady, youngest son of former Territorial Gov. John Brady.

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