Alaska enduring wild winter

Here’s the forecast for Honolulu for this weekend: Friday, sunny, 80 degrees; Saturday, sunny, 80 degrees; Sunday, sunny, 79 degrees. Ooh! Bundle up for the game on Sunday, boys.

Well, before Pro Bowlers decline their Hawaii invitations, they should consider what the folks in Alaska are enduring. A normal Alaska winter isn’t for sissies. But this year, Old Man Winter is being especially punishing.

Consider the brief update I received Thursday from our North Pacific bureau chief, Charlie Ess.

“We have had well below zero as the norm here since the turn of the new year: today 17 below, yesterday 20 below, day before that, about 8 below,” Charlie says. “In the outlying areas we’ve seen lows of 63 below in the village of Hughes and lots of 50-plus-below days on end in the areas around Kalskag and along the Yukon River.”

It’s no fun for fishermen out on the water, either. Imagine working under the physical and mental stress of constantly having to break up ice forming on the boats in such brutal conditions. Even boats at the docks are imperiled by the snow and ice that collect.

This week we learned that sea ice is forming unusually early in the Bering Sea, threatening Alaska’s snow crab fishery. According the Anchorage Daily News, the cold temperatures and high winds are pushing the ice south at the rate of 10 to 15 miles a day towards prime crab grounds. Millions of dollars worth of already deployed crab pots could be jeopardized, and the ice could have a truly chilling economic impact upon crabbers and their families.

Earlier this week, the 58-foot Kimberly ran aground off the Alaska Peninsula. The Coast Guard was able to rescue all four crewmembers, but not before the crew endured a night aboard the vessel amidst high winds gusting up to 100 mph.

In closing, Pro Bowlers, I submit a photo Charlie sent me that demonstrates how brutal winter’s been so far in his neck of the Alaska woods.

I suspect Charlie and plenty of Alaska fishermen will happily take any All-Pro’s place in Honolulu.

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