Friday, January 20, 2012

Cordova's "Snowpocalypse" 2012


Cordova Alaska, where I fish, is used to managing a lot of snow.  But this winter, they’ve received

around twenty feet in twenty-four days, give or take.  A bit more than the normal amount. 

Browning street in downtown Cordova
School was cancelled, the airport was snowed in, businesses shut down, residents were snowed in, the road was closed, roofs collapsed and avalanches were triggered.   This town is used to being self-sufficient and true to form, Cordovans pulled together to help each other out best they could.  A task force was created to manage and prioritize each crisis, such as digging down eight feet of snow to the top of someone’s heating fuel tank or digging someone out of their home.  But after a few days, even they had to call for help.  The mayor declared an emergency and the National Guard was called in.  They had to arrive by ferry since the airport was still buried in snow.  Granted, they arrived without shovels, a slight oversight, but that was quickly remedied and they helped dig the town out.  Shovels were a hot commodity, you see, the whole town was sold out.  More were ordered but with the airport shut down, there was no way to get them shipped in.  Meanwhile, it kept snowing.

Copper River Seafoods
(photo by L. O'Toole)


Copper River's net loft


Roofs caved in under the weight. One of those roofs was the Copper River Seafood's warehouse. Inside that warehouse were fisherman’s boats, nets and gear. The irony is that these fisherman took the extra step of putting their boats to bed for the winter inside a cozy dry warehouse, opposed to either leaving them in the water or storing them outside on a trailer.   And then the roof caved in.  At first, it was just the second floor that was damaged, but as it kept snowing, that floor eventually caved in on top of boats. From what I understand, what the snow didn’t destroy in that warehouse the heavy equipment used to clean up the snow did.

heavy equipment clearing the snow load
(L. O'Toole)

heavy equipment clearing the snow load
(L. O'Toole)

boats inside on the bottom floor
(L. O'toole)

When a disaster like this strikes, I can’t help but wonder how it will affect the economy of the town, which is primarily commercial fishing.  If fishermen lost their boats, will they be able to make a season out of it?

There are just so many variables in fishing, like state of your boat, your gear, currents, how much sleep you just got, or didn’t get.  And so many things outside our control that affect our fisheries such as earthquakes in Japan, fuel prices going through the roof, dentists in Fairbanks (anyone remember that?), and record snow falls.  All I know is we can only control what we do or don’t do.  So I guess we’ll all just keep on keeping on and hope for the best. 

I’m out.

1 comment:

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