About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Yesterday, I came home from work early because the fire alarm in our building kept going off with bright flashing lights and an insistent headache-inducing clanging noise.  Once the fire department determined that there was no fire, we were allowed to go back in the building, but the alarm kept going off.  After many episodes, the building owners sent their maintenance men to figure out the problem, which meant that they had to turn off the alarm.  Legally, we weren't allowed to keep the clinic open with no working fire alarm system, so we had to close the clinic and go home early on a Friday afternoon.  So I came home and was ready for a quiet, relaxing rest of the day.

However, because of the heavy snow load, warming temperatures and lots of rain, the city and borough decided that they should do avalanche abatement, which means that they fire a howitzer across Gastineau Channel from above Sandy Beach (about a half mile from our house) to the mountain above Thane Road on the mainland.  This sounds exactly like you would imagine a giant cannon would sound.  Loud enough to shake the house, rattle the windows and scare the neighborhood dogs to bits.  Our poor little Beans was cowering under the woodstove when I got home.  I fished her out and sat on the couch with her on my lap.  She panted nervously and trembled with every loud boom.  Frida didn't seem too troubled by the noise, and was mostly upset that Beans had usurped HER usual position on my lap, so she draped herself around my shoulders.

Beans, trembling
 The city decided to do the avalanche abatement not only because of the above stated reasons, but also because, earlier in the day, there had been a large avalanche off of Mount Juneau, above the Highlands neighborhood in downtown.

The avalanche was filmed by a local woman from the parking lot of the downtown swimming pool.  The avalanche zone is the site of a huge avalanche that occurred many years ago that created a snow cloud so immense that the people in Douglas thought that Juneau had been obliterated.  The event yesterday, while impressive, was much smaller and no damage occurred, although the snow stopped just 50 feet from a house and damaged a car that was parked on a neighborhood street.

It was a close call, however, and a reminder of the awesome power of nature.

The avalanche made the national news, and I received a concerned phone call from my mother in law, who saw it on TV.

Here is the video of the avalanche.

It was a rather exciting day, for our town, and for our local dogs!

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