Local News

2013: Earthquakes, Spock and a world record

The Celebrity cruise ship Millennium is seen tied up in Ketchikan following mechanical problems that stranded the ship and its passengers here for several days.

It’s been almost a full year, but many of you might recall how 2013 started off not with a bang, but with a jolt.

A magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit off Prince of Wales Island on Jan. 5th, triggering tsunami alerts and evacuations throughout Southeast Alaska.

“We all kind of heard this – it was almost like a roaring, but not exactly – it’s a very hard noise to describe. Then the house started shaking, wind chimes started going off,” recalled Cindy Wyatt, who lives with her family on Marble Island just off northwest Prince of Wales, close to the epicenter of the earthquake.

Luckily for them, and everyone else in Southeast, the shake-up did not produce any significant tidal surges, although there were numerous aftershocks for weeks after the initial earthquake.

Also in January, the brand-new Ketchikan Public Library opened its doors to the public, with an official grand-opening party a few weeks later.

In May, Ketchikan broke a world record for the largest rubber boot race, when about 2,000 people, all wearing rain boots, gathered together and walked a mile in their wellies. Guinness World Record officials confirmed the new record in July.

The cruise season was a busy one in Ketchikan, and among the visitors to Alaska’s First City was Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek fame, who was cruising with his family. He took a quick moment to praise the Last Frontier.

“We’ve had a fabulous time,” he said. “It’s a beautiful country, beautiful city, great  people.”

Not all cruise visitors had as good of an experience. About 2,000 passengers on board the Millennium were stuck in Ketchikan for several days in August after that ship experienced mechanical problems. The company eventually had to give everyone a refund and charter planes to fly them out.

This past year was a good one for discoveries in southern Southeast Alaska. An entomology student from the University of Alaska Fairbanks found a new species of insect on Prince of Wales, and gave it a Tlingit name; a Forest Service geologist found a previously unknown volcano underwater near Misty Fiords National Monument; and a group of scientists found the remains of an ichthyosaur on Gravina Island.

In fall, City of Ketchikan voters approved $42 million worth of bonds so that the community can upgrade its hospital. Voters also chose 18-year-old high school student Trevor Shaw to sit on the Ketchikan School Board.

“One of the reasons for running, besides my passion for the people and wanting to help the community, was trying to get more people my age involved,” he told KRBD soon after the election. “We are the future, we are going to be the future taxpayers and the constituents and the future leaders.”

2013 was not without some controversy. In March, Alaska Rep. Don Young used a derogatory term for Mexican farm workers during a news conference in Ketchikan, but appears to have weathered the storm of criticism that resulted from that comment.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly decided to move forward with a lawsuit against the State of Alaska. For several years now, the borough has challenged the state’s school funding practice, claiming that current regulations are unfair, and place undue burden on local governments. The lawsuit has not yet been filed, but the borough has hired a law firm, which has started on the research phase.

And to cap off the year, after City Council Member Sam Bergeron resigned his seat, the Council appointed Russell Wodehouse to fill the empty position. However, a document that indicates Wodehouse’s Washington State teaching certificate had been revoked due to alleged misconduct led to Wodehouse’s resignation. As 2013 comes to a close, the Council seat remains empty for now.

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