Saturday, February 28, 2009

Armageddon of White

Yes, this is Alaska....and yes, this is ARCTIC Alaska, but we, like everywhere else, have our typical weather. We pretty much know what to expect. I say this because people like to say "Gee, what do you expect?? You live in the Arctic!" And I think to myself "No shit genius, of this I am aware". But even here, in the arctic, we are allowed to be amazed at the over the top extremes of our already, at times, severe weather. Even for the arctic 7 blizzards in two weeks is not typical. It is certainly not unheard of, but it is NOT typical. It would be like New England getting 6 nor'easters in one month.

On Thursday morning, the 6th blizzard, school was closed, Maniilaq and other businesses closed and the morning Alaska Airlines flight cancelled. Then around 10am the skies cleared and everybody began digging out. The afternoon Alaska Airlines jet, the one that I was on made it in, Maniilaq reopened, and the school called the teachers back into work (so that they could call it an "in service" and therefore not have to make the day up).

The 7th blizzard, the one that stuck me and many others at work, was no surprise. The morning started relatively calm with a bright pink sky. You know, pink sky in the morning, sailors take warning? The big low pressure system had been forecasted. The problem was (in my opinion, anyone can feel free to correct me if I am wrong), with all the business and school closures that we had in the past 2 weeks, the powers that be seemed reluctant to close up shop. It was like they wanted to wait until they knew that this blizzard REALLY meant it before they sent people scurrying for cover. Well, they waited too long.

At around 1-1:30pm the school finally closed and they started calling parents to come get kids. By that time the weather was so bad that visibility, according to, was already considered "zero".

In reality visibility was fluctuating somewhere between 50-100 feet. I was able to get to the school, pick up my mom and my son, and head back to work. Just barely.

I thought about staying home but I really didn't want to take personal leave for the rest of the afternoon. I went back to work hoping that Maniilaq would close right away.

At around 2pm we got an email saying that we need to park all non essential work vehicles and they would know by 3pm whether or not Maniilaq would close. I was thinking "Gee, what happens at 3pm that is so different from now?". Then around 2:25 pm we get another email telling us to go home. Well thanks, that was a nice thought, but a little too late. By then visibility was, I kid you not, about 5 feet, a situation that is quite dangerous even here in town. Bree and I decided to stay put. Usually there are breaks in the heavy snowfall and you can try to get somewhere quickly. Not this time. By around 4:30pm we were getting concerned that if we wanted to get home it was now or never. We began scrounging around work for all the winter gear we could find and were able to outfit ourselves quite well. I knew that I would not be able to make it the 3/4 of a mile to my house down 3rd ave. There would be too many drifts and with my bum knee I would be doomed. Instead I decided to walk to my friend Kathy's house, about 4 houses upwind. We left work at 4:45 pm. I gave Bree my cell phone because she had farther to walk than me. I hollered to Bree over the howling wind, half jokingly, "Well, it was nice knowing you!" and then we went our separate ways.

I encountered my first obstacle about 30 feet into my walk. There was a 4 foot snow drift with a Honda 4-wheeler (atv) embedded in the opposite side. I tried to climb over the drift but sunk in up past my waist. I was wearing ski pants but I had short wussy North Face boots on and my boots filled with snow freezing my ankles. I figured if I went to the right towards the garage door I might find the short side of the drift and be able to wade through. With some effort I made it thru and found clear road. I knew Madeline's house was next but I could only see it intermittently for a second a time, the wind threatening to topple me over. I followed the tire tracks in the hard packed road, this part hadn't yet drifted over. My face was soaking wet and starting to freeze. At that point I didn't care.

I knew my next goal was the 150 feet to Chip and Cindy's house. I slogged on one step at a time into what I now know was a 64 mph head wind. I could just make out Chip and Cindy's house when I hit a deep snowbank and a gust of wind caught me and made me fall to my knees. Every time I tried to get back up the wind would knock me down. I struggled and bogged down in the almost 4 foot drift. Every breath I tried to take was getting sucked out of my mouth by the wind and I started to panic. I realized that I needed to calm down. I knew the Chip and Cindy's house was 25 feet away, and one way or another I could make that 25 feet, even if it took me a half an hour. Even if I had to I would roll across and through the drift. Then I thought shit, I would hate to have them look out the window and see me thrashing around in that snow drift like a beached friggin' beluga. It was at that point that I realized I wasn't totally in fear for my life yet because if I was I wouldn't be worried about people thinking I looked foolish. I kneeled in the drift for about 4 more minutes waiting to catch my breath, be calm, and wait for a tiny break in the gusts and then stood up and waded the rest of the way through the drift to clear road.

I could not see, my glasses were crusted over with ice. The wind was whipping the snot out of my nose and smearing it down over my chin and the left side of my face. The right side of my face was plastered with snow. The eyelashes on my right eye were frozen shut. At that point I could just see the phone pole near Kathy's house. I said a prayer that there were no more drifts and pressed on. I made it.

It took me almost 15 minutes to walk 389 feet. That was the hardest won 389 feet of my life.

Bree's stroll home was as bad as mine only longer. There were many of us last night that were stuck at our various places of work. There were kids stuck at the school until midnight...but hey, they sure don't have to make up a snow day and that's what counts....right??

I know there are others from last night with crazy stories like mine. Go check out Maija's blizzard story

Here is what my work looked like this morning when I stopped by to pick up my truck and try to make it home.

Luckily the side door wasn't blocked.

My neighbor's buried house. I have heard several people say that this is the worst storm they have seen in the last 25 years.

So I learned a couple valuable lessons in this storm. The first being that I should trust my instincts. That just because you have been through a bunch of storms in the last 2 weeks doesn't mean that the next one isn't gonna be the mother of them all. I should have gotten my mom and my boy out of school when I first had a bad feeling about the whole thing. I shouldn't have left these decision up to other people who may or may not have our best interest at heart.

The second lesson is that when it comes to keeping my child safe or not making up a school day, the school district will pick not making up a school day. Pretty sad that a bunch of kids, some with special needs , were stuck at school until late into the night because the school district didn't want to have to make up that day. We all know that is the reason they waited until after 1pm to call off school. If someone disagrees with that assessment feel free to comment here. I have no problem eating crow, it tastes ok with ketchup.

So that's my story for those of you who asked to hear it. I know a lot of Kotzebue folks have stories of last night like mine, or worse. It would be great to hear about them so post me a comment if you have the time. You can be anonymous if you want. How did you get home or where did you spend the night???

Here is the weather chart for Kotzebue during the period of time that this story took place. While it may have been pretty breezy here, mother nature tried to blow the village of Savoonga off the map...during this same storm they had sustained wind of 84 mph with gusts to 99mph.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Stuck at Work

Bree and I are stuck at work. It is an armegeddon of frikkin' white here. The wind is blowing at 50 to 60 mph and it's snowing hard. I can't see the fence across the street. In Antartica they call this "Condition 1", here we call it one gnarly ass storm.

See it live here...

The school district pulled their little trick of waiting until after 1pm to cancel school so that they won't have to make the day up....but if you ask me, this time they were REALLY pushing it. This storm is truly dangerous even here within town. There are lots of peopel still stuck at work.

So I was still able to see enough to drive to the school and get my mom and son and take them home. I was thinking about just staying home but Maniilaq hadn't cancelled work yet so I went back. Dumb, dumb, dumb. So I go back ato work and sit down at my desk for a while and the email comes in saying Maniilaq was closing. Well that was nice, but too late. It really started to snow and the wind was gusting to 60 and you literally cannot see 10 feet in front of you.

I'd consider walking home...with the wind at my back it is do-able...BUT...I am afraid some yahoo in a truck or snowmachine is gonna mow me down. So I guess I'll wait.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home Again

Well I managed to make it home on the afternoon jet today between two blizzards...the one that ended this morning and the one that starts tomorrow. What will this one be? The 7th blizzard in 14 days? So I guess you can expect a few more posts about the weather. Now there's something to look forward to.

I also have some pictures from around Juneau to share and also a post of why I went down to Juneau in the first place....but right now I am verrrrry tired so I am going to go to bed. Before midnight. For once. Amazing.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Taken on Douglas Island, near Juneau, Alaska


Monday, February 23, 2009

Heading Out

Well it looks like the trip is a go and I will be heading out to Juneau to go hang with my BFF Sarah Palin to talk about important things, like you know...Coach Bags and Neiman Marcus shoes. I'll send her all your love.

I plan to keep posting while I am down there if I can.

(photo courtesy of the KoKon )

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mother Nature is a Mean Old Hag

Well I guess my plea the other day fell on deaf ears as I have been listening to the wind whistle through every crevice in the house for the last 32 hours. I'm supposed to leave for Juneau tomorrow but I don't know how that is going to turn out because what this storm lacks in snow it's making up in duration.

Besides doing a whole lotta nothing I did some laundry, some homework, some packing for the trip that probably won't happen, took a couple pictures of the dogs.....



.......and wasted some time of Facebook. It's a great time waster. So a friend of mine tagged me for one of those know, the "Share some stuff about yourself" kinda thing. This one is called "Shuffle' and you put your ipod/mp3 on shuffle and write down the first 25 songs it plays in an hour. Well that was too much time for me so I just out it on shuffle and kept hitting next until I had gone through 25 songs. So since I don't like to waste my creative energies (lol) I'm gonna cross post the list here...cuz I'm so interesting and all, ya know.

1. "Taste the Pain" Red Hot Chili Peppers

2. "Get Up" REM

3. "Falling Free "David Gray"

4. "This is Where it Ends" Barenaked Ladies

5. "Kiss On My List" Hall and Oats (rofl)

6. Awesome God" Michael W. Smith

7. "Gold Dust Woman" Fleetwood Mac"

8. "You Outta Know" Alanis Morissette

9. "The Wrong Child" REM

10. "Broken Wings" Mister Mister (come on don't laugh, you know you like it.)

11." Listen to Her Heart" Tom Petty

12. "Carry on my Wayward Son" Kansas

13. "Bittersweet Symphony" The Verve

14. "I believe" REM (I have LOTS of REM)

15. "My Lovely Man" Red Hot Chili Peppers

16. "Warm Whispers" Missy Higgins

17. " Your Grace is Enough" Matt Maher

18. "Sue Me" Kurt Nilsen

19. "What a Good Boy" Barenaked Ladies (one of my most favorite songs ever)

20. "Falling Awake" Gary Jules

21. "Name" Goo Goo Dolls

22. " Le Vieux Piano" Edith Piaf

23. "Day By Day" From the broadway musical Godspell

24. "Careless Whisper" Wham! (Classic!!)

25. "Hand's of the Potter" Caedmon's Call

Go ahead and do this too if you have the time and the ambition to waste. It was actually fun. Post the results on your blog, or in the comments on my blog, or BOTH!


Friday, February 20, 2009

All Things in Moderation

Dear Mother Nature,

I know that I live in Alaska...ARCTIC Alaska no less.....

...but is THIS really necessary? After all this will be the 4th blizzard in nine days.

We haven't even had a chance to dig out from the last three.

Look at Maija's house. She barely bothered to try. I guess she's the smart one. Heck, at my house we pushed snow around yesterday for three hours. We shouldn't even have bothered.

I mean REALLY, Mother Nature, all things in moderation, you know? We all like some snow every now and then...but this???

This is too much of a good thing.

Cathy in Kotzebue

We would like to request that March be cancelled due to lack of interest. Kthnxbai.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gnarly Blow

This is our 3rd blizzard in 6 days. I think the other two were just practice for this one. School was let out early, business closed at noon, not a soul in site outside....that is if you could see outside.

When we woke up this morning the wind was already blowing around all the snow we have gotten over the last couple of weeks. Wind howling in from the east. In the wintertime our prevailing hate and discontent comes from the east southeast. I didn't even bother to listen to the radio or call the school. I knew they wouldn't cancel school.

Come hell or high water they don't cancel school here. The reason, as Maija explains on her blog, is this...."The district here is smarter than your average Anchorage school district. A while back, they canceled school in Anchorage for four days in a row, due to freezing rain. Now they have to make up those days on Saturday, and at the end of the year. Not so for Kotzebue. We tell parents that they have the choice to bring their kids to school and they will not be counted absent that day if they don't come, due to the storm, then by 12:30, they tell parents who DID bring their kids to school to pick them up! That way, we don't have to make up any days. THAT's how you do it folks!"

As you can see, my neighbor's house is disappearing.

The driveway (that we just got done shoveling for the umpteenth time) was drifted over so I parked my truck at the end off the driveway. I bet the engine compartment is packed full of snow by now. Next tiem I turn on the heater blower snow is gonna come flying out.

This is my back door. The back door that I have not opened once today. When it gets nasty here the snow leaks into every tiny crack and crevice.

Uyaana is happy that he got to leave school early and go play Wii.

25 Things About Me

I am recycling this from my Facebook page. It took so long to write it seemed a shame not to use it again here.

25 Random Things About Cathy

1. I hate raisins. I hate the way they look, I hate the way they taste and I especially hate the way they smell. I hate the way people feel the need to contaminate perfectly lovely foods with raisins such as cinnamon rolls, cookies, and rice. I mean, I can't just pick the raisins out of a cinnamon roll because I can still SMELL that they were there.

2. My favorite drink is Diet Pepsi. I could drink it all day if I let myself.

3. I have Attention Deficit Disorder. No joke. I was diagnosed as a young child. I am still very ADD. I forget things all the time. You can remind me of something and I will literally forget 3 minutes later. I even set my cell phone to remind me to pick my son up from school every day! Sad.

4. When I was in 1st grade, we had a teacher named Mrs. Emory who I swear came from the dark ages. There were "Good Bunnies" and "Bad Bunnies". Good Bunnies got candy. Bad Bunnies got to spend the day in a cardboard box. I remember one time me and I think Jimmy Zarta got in trouble in the lunch room for refusing to eat some particularly yucky thing on our tray. Do you remember that Jimmy??

5. I am terrible with names and faces. I think this has to do with the ADD. After I meet people casually I almost always immediately forget their name. Sometimes I even forget their face. I have people walk up to me and say "Hi cathy!", and I will have absolutely no idea who they are or how I know them. It's embarrassing.

6. When driving or walking down a road at night I like to see into people's windows. I like see what their house looks like and wonder who they are and what their life is like. Is that creepy??

7. I swear I can spend three and a half hours straight in Walmart or Target and not even know where the time went. I think, because I live in the Bush and don't have access to big stores I go into some kind of "stuff trance". I get overwhelmed by all the stuff and wander aimlessly looking at things.

8. I hate math! I am absolutely terribly awful at math. Enough said.

9. Whenever I'm getting ready to fly to Anchorage I always make these long, elaborate shopping lists, and then I always forget them at home.

10. I cannot type without looking at the keyboard. I am filled with envy when I see people blissfully typing away while looking at the computer screen. Show offs. My typing teacher in high school used to tell me I would be sorry for peeking at my hands in class. You were right Ms. Ballou....I am very, very, sorry!

11. I do not attach to people easily. I am a friendly person, and have people who I am friendly with, but I can count my closest, trusted friends on one hand with room to spare and to them I am fiercely loyal.

12. I hate Dr. Pepper, Cherry Coke, Cherry Pepsi, Maraschino cherries, cherry cough drops or anything else that has that yucky fake cherry flavor.......but I love fresh cherries.

13. I am not a grudge holder. Even when someone REALLY pisses me off and I blow up at them I am usually good by the next day. Even when someone hurts my feelings I can't hold a grudge.

14. I have had 5 surgeries on my left knee since January of 2003.
First, a lateral partial menisecomy, medial meniscal repair, and ACL reconstruction with cadaver allograft. Second, medial meniscal repair. Third , another meniscal repair. Fourth, another ACL and a Lateral reconstruction both with cadaver allograft... Lather, rinse and... Fifth, REPEAT.

15. I once met Sean Penn. It was on the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks. He was filming footage for Into the Wild. Sean Penn is an ass with entitlement issues.

16. I do not own any dresses or skirts. I haven't for years.

17. I love show tunes, especially Andrew Lloyd Webber. I saw Cats and Aspects of Love on Broadway and I have seen Jesus Christ Superstar three times. I have a big long play list of show tunes on my ipod.

18. I have always been terrible at journals but I decided to start a blog as a way to post photos for family and friends who live far away. That was almost 2 years ago and somehow it has become much more than that.

19. I love my dogs. I even let Kaija sleep on the bed.

20.I never set out to be a "photographer". I just liked to take photos and never dreamed that I would ever make money at it. Actually I still don't really make any money at it cause, dang, it's an expensive hobby.

21. The greatest person I have ever known is my Gramma Nella who died when I was 16. She was the nicest person I have ever met. She never had an unkind word to say about anyone. If a hornet got into the house she would catch it gently in her hands, careful not to hurt it, and let it outside.

22. I have a cousin named "Karen" who moved away when I was very young. I barely remember her,and have actually seen her only a few times. Sometimes I think that I have become another "Karen" in my family who lives way out in Alaska. The one who is seen only once a year and is out of the loop. Sometimes that's a bummer.

23. I was born in "America's First Resort" and raised in "Peyton Place".

24. I love to read. I like all different kinds of books, but if it doesn't hook me in by about the 20th page it goes back on the shelf. I think I have tried to read "I Know This Much is True" by Wally Lamb about 4 times and it always ends up on the shelf.

25. I liked Twilight even though I am ashamed to say it. It is the book I hate to love. It was corny and full of purple prose but still it was strangely compelling. However, each successive book got progressively worse until it took me a week to recover from the resulting brain damage the reading of Breaking Dawn gave me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I was looking through a bunch of photos that I have of Kotzebue and realized what a snarly maze of wires we have. I guess it's just something that I'm used to seeing so I never really thought about it until now...









Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Any Day You Walk Away....

Photobucket a good day. Just ask the guys who were flying this Casa.

It has been stormy for the last couple of days so there have been lots of cancelled flights. It cleared up today, still overcast but not snowing, so the small planes had been flying.

Then suddenly this white out started. One minute it was clear and the next you couldn't see 100 feet in front of you.

This is an ATS cargo plane so there were no passengers on board. I think it was just the pilot and co-pilot and they were ok. I hear they walked the rest of the way to the ATS hanger (about 1/3 mile) and were taken to the hospital to get checked out.

From the daily Alaska State Trooper Dispatch......

Location: Kotzebue

Case number: 09-12652

Type: Aircraft Accident

Text: On 11/14/09 at approximately 1055 hours Kotzebue Flight Serves
reported an Arctic Transportation Services (ATS) Casa 212 aircraft had
reported five miles out of Kotzebue and was planning to land on runway
09. At approximately 1103 hours Kotzebue Flight Serves attempted to
contact the aircraft and received no response. At approximately 1140
hours pilot Tony Willis age 27 of Anchorage and co-pilot Jarod Crume age
24 of Anchorage walked into town and reported that they had hit the ice
off the end of runway damaging their aircraft. Both Willis and Crume
reported being uninjured. Weather was the main contributor to the


Friday, February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009