Volcanos and Blizzards, Oh My!

Well Old Man Winter and Mother Nature have conspired to make this week one of the wildest in recent memory. There is a television show on the History Channel called “Tougher in Alaska”. Well they aren’t kidding, it is tough. I am pleased to announce though, that the weather here in Kodiak today consists of bright blue sky and lots of sunshine, far from the arctic beating we took earlier this week. The bad news is that the volcano Mt. Redoubt has erupted again several times this morning, grounding all flights to and from Kodiak. Mt. Redoubt is located 100 miles southwest of Anchorage and sits right in the path of planes coming to and from Kodiak Island. The ash from the volcano is not like the ash you would find in your fireplace at home or from around a campfire. This ash is essentially small bits of rocks that are spewed from the volcano up to heights of 60000 feet!! This ash is extremely hazardous to machinery and especially turbine engines on air planes. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1989, and it erupted sporadically for the next 5 months.

Alaska and Kenai Peninsula with Kodiak to the South

Saturday marked the official opening of the 2009 Halibut season, and with it followed a huge storm that ravaged the entire Gulf of Alaska with 50 knot winds and heavy freezing sea spray. Several boats ventured out with only a few making deliveries. Only one vessel made a small delivery to another processor here in Kodiak. I can say though that our company, Pacific Seafoods was the first company to bring fresh Halibut to the market through our processing facility Resurrection Bay Seafoods in Seward. Here in Kodiak, the F/V Northern Jaeger is on the fishing grounds, but the weather has forced him to stay on anchor for much of the week. He should be in tomorrow with the first load of the season for Island Seafoods. All of this fish will be shipped North to the Anchorage are to be distributed to Supermarkets, Restaurants and retail seafood markets, so I will not be offering any fresh halibut from this delivery. However, I will be offering fresh halibut later in April as the weather gets nicer and more boats are able to get out and work their gear.

The Kodiak Jig fleet continues to chip away at the State Water Quota. But the fleet is getting restless. They have been in town for several days hanging out at Harborside Coffee, waiting out this series of brutal arctic storm systems. Here is the F/V Transporter getting a fresh load of squid and a few tons of ice, ready to head out to sea at a moments notice.

F/V Transperter loading bait to go Jig Cod

Monday morning Kodiak Island awoke to a fresh coat of snow. But unlike the typical Kodiak Winter maritime climate, the snow didn’t turn to rain by mid day. This storm was just getting started. By 5 pm that day, Kodiak was at the mercy of a full blown arctic blizzard, with winds in excess of 50 knots and total white out conditions. Safe inside my cozy house, my wife and I could only watch with amazement as our yard and driveway disappeared before our eyes.

View from my front door Monday night

The remains of the Blizzard

Tuesday morning I spent the next hour just trying to clear a path out the front door.

Lots of shoveling ahead

I grew up here in Kodiak and this is probably in the top 3 huge snow storms I can remember. The whole town shut down; schools, city, borough, the Coast Guard Base, everything.

I might be a bit late to work this morning

Once I got everything dug out, I rallied down to Island Seafoods, to find the crew and a fleet of plow trucks had cleared out most of the parking lot and dock. Everything seems to be more complicated in the snow. The weather service says we got 30 inches in 24 hours. Wednesday the weather warmed up and rained about 6 inches. Well this melted much of the snow and overwhelmed the whole drainage system and many roads were flooded. The flooding has stopped all the gutters are clear and today is beautiful and sunny. This just goes to prove that you can expect the unexpected when it comes to Kodiak winter weather.

Scale shack and the dock

Eliseo and some HUGE icicles

With a new storm system forecast for tonight and tomorrow, skippers and crew are staying busy with projects and boat maintenance. Here, Alexus Kwachka, skipper of the F/V Major, steadies the brand new 530 horse power John Deer engine into position on his Bristol Bay gill netter, the F/V No Point. With this repower, Alexus hopes to save on fuel consumption when traveling and when he is towing on the gill net. The new motor fit like a glove and he should be finished up in time to head out on the F/V Major next week to target halibut and Black Cod.

Alexus Kwachka ready to load his new engine

Lowering the new engine into the F/V No Point

Until next time, Enjoy!