I have just taken a new job in Great Falls, Montana. A new state and new areas to explore.
By: joealaska , 6:32 AM GMT on January 24, 2012
I have only been here four years, almost, but the recent weather here has been UNIQUE.
Non stop brutal.
Yesterday and today we had 70 mph winds. It was 15 degrees. I do not have my wind chill table handy, but I believe that makes the ambient temperature -202. I could be wrong, but it feels cold. We are not used to THIS cold up here.
That plate of ice is still around, like my driveway. 3 days ago we 6 inches of new fluff. I drove in and out a couple times, and walked on the driveway. NOW the wind has scoured all that snow away off the drive. Except for the tire tracks and footprints where that soft snow was compressed a bit. Reverse print of a sort.
I moved the weather module into the bedroom so I can check out in real time what that gust was that woke me up and scattered the cats.
Yesterday my boss called when it was still dark in the morning. He asked about the weather and I told him trubba. I glanced out the window. Normally I can see (at least) the lights on the road and bridge below, as well as at Unisea. At that moment it was a big blank black void. Whiteout in the dark.
One boat had an engine fire last week. They were about 100 miles off shore. They lost all power, the engine room is charcoal. That boat sits at Magone Marine for repairs. Looking at 3 weeks. I am surprised the boat is not heading south to do that.
That crew stayed on the boat for a few days. It was cold. We rounded up a butane burner for them to cook on. The boat had no power. Half the crew was sent home. This means they make no money. Then the crew was put up at The Grand Aleutian.
So yesterday, as The Patriots were coming back and winning against The Ravens, I was arranging another pizza run for the crew. The pizza place somehow forgot the order ($300), so my driver was waiting for about an hour and a half to pick up and deliver it.
Meanwhile, I got a call from the second boat. The boat I had finally gotten a ride on last year. My friend was on the line, the cook on the vessel. The Steward. He said they just had an engine fire TOO. These are sister ships in the same company. Save your comments. This is a well run company that is having some bad luck. BAD coincidence.
They had their fire as they were near the spit and heading to dock. They almost ran aground. Again, they were also out of power. I heard some water got in the breaker room, and all the electric CRAP shorted out. I hate to get technical.
I was at the boat within an hour of the fire. I picked up the cook as he jumped from the ice encrusted vessel. Got it on video. I helped him look for a rental vehicle. OH. There were severe whiteouts at the time. As I went to City Dock to pick him up I got caught in one. There was a 30 foot wide one-foot high drift near the airport. Where the wind runs down the runway unimpeded.
It piles up locally. Fun when it appears out of nowhere in the whiteness.
After I picked him up we headed to OSI Dock where he thought they had a rental vehicle.
On the way, again by the airport, it was white chaos. I was driving off the road, risking getting stuck in the plow berm. I had to stop completely at one point. Waiting for some clear vision. Waiting for someone to run into me. Not sure of the lane I was in. It cleared up and there was a fuel tanker about 100 feet ahead of me. Heading the same direction, also just getting under way.
We got to OSI. The rental was in the shop. Turned around and went back to the airport. There are a couple of rental companies based there. They post a 24 hour phone number. Neither answered.
I offered to lend him our van for the night. DONE.
Meanwhile, the pizza pick up had become debaclous. The cook with me mentioned his sister ship was at Magone Dock. I thought it was at OSI, where we would deliver. We went to The Grand Aleutian to find the other cook / steward. We knew his room number.
When we got there, the door was open. The TV was on. And unoccupied. Except for the cow, but that will be covered in HANGOVER 3.
We went downstairs and found him at the front desk. He was in the process of paying for 12 meals from the buffet. To go. I guess he forgot ordering all those pizzas.
The 2nd cook had hungry crew, so he took the pizzas.
I took both cooks to the warehouse. Gave one our van, took the other, and all his carryout food, to the first boat. There was a ladder laying between the boat and dock. Laying on the ice. He went down it. I would not, but I did not have to. THANK GOD.
The food was in one big box. Maybe 30 pounds. He was down in the boat, and I was lowering the food. I set that box on the ladder and slowly slid it down. No alliteration intended.
My mind raced back to that episode where I lost all that Deadliest Catch footage to the briney deep a couple years ago. Same situation. Blowing wind. Ice and snow. Gap between boats. And I told him that story as I lowered the box.
We got her done.
The weather today was a bit worse. Constant wind.
New Alaska stuff in the media. A movie actually filmed in Alaska about Alaska. Remember those whales caught in the ice YEARS ago near Nome? The locals cut holes in the ice to let them come up and breathe? It was big news around the world. I was in the lower 48 somewhere and remeber it. Long before I moved here. Well, it was made into a movie. Soon to be released.
Also, something about BERING SEA GOLD. Gold mining by The Bering.
The second boat now has power, but will be here awhile for repairs.
Big gusts right NOW.
I keep getting questions about barbecuing in Dutch. YES, I use a lighter. The secret is to saturate a piece of paper from the charcoal bag in lighter fluid. Light that on top of the also saturated charcoal and you have a bonfire in seconds. The 70 mph wind helps. The real challenge is the in-process seasoning. You MUST account for the wind. Careful positioning of the wrist, blocking the wind, is KEY. Allow for the wind, and shake away.
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