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AK Beat: Record wind gusts as high as 87 mph along Alaska's Seward Highway

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch
The colorful autumn scenery of the Seward Highway beside Alaska's Turnagain Arm was ripped away by wind gusts up to 87 mph Wednesday morning. Loren Holmes photo

Record 87 mph gust on Anchorage Hillside: What coastal Alaskans view as fall came roaring into the Southcentral Alaska region Wednesday morning in leaf-stripping earnest. Good-bye pretty fall colors; hello barren trees. Turnagain Arm just southeast of the state's largest city got hit with what appears to be a record gust of 87 mph at a McHugh Creek wind recording site maintained by the Alaska Department of Transportation. Hurricane force winds start at 74 mph. The automated weather station is along the Seward Highway, a nationally recognized "scenic byway.'' The road follows the edge of a fiord between the Chugach and Kenai mountains for about 45 miles outside of the state's largest city. The fall colors can be spectacular on those rare occasions when the winds allow the leaves to remain on the trees for a few days. Winds in Anchorage and along the notoriously gusty Anchorage Hillside did not appear to gust as high as the screamer at McHugh, but the National Weather Service was warning Hillside residents to prepare for gusts up to 85 mph Wednesday.

Troopers ID men killed in boating accident on Yukon: Alaska State Troopers on Wednesday identified three men confirmed dead or presumed dead after their boat sank on the Yukon River Monday evening. Troopers report that the bodies of two men -- 29-year-old Daniel Noble and 50-year-old Cyril Murphy -- had been recovered and a third man, 24-year-old Stanton Shelton, is presumed dead. The sole survivor, 21-year-old John Chikigak, reported that the 18-foot skiff was taking on water when the men decided to pull the drain plug and attempt to plane the boat, but the engine wasn't strong enough to do so and the skiff was swamped. Chikigak was picked up Tuesday afternoon before search efforts were called off due to high winds and blowing snow. All of the boat's occupants were residents of Nunam Iqua, a village of about 180 people formerly known as Sheldon Point near the mouth of the river.

Search called off for missing hunter: The Coast Guard said Tuesday night that it was calling off its search for a hunter from the town of Craig who has been missing in Southeast Alaska more than a week. “Suspending a case is one of the hardest decisions that we as . . . rescuers have to make, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family,” Juneau Coast Guard Cmdr. Marc Burd said in a release. The missing man, 25-year-old Garrett Hagan, disappeared after taking a fresh bear kill on a skiff back to a larger boat, leaving his hunting partner behind at a cabin. His partner, 51-year-old Adrian Knopps of Michigan, was rescued on Sunday after a passing vessel spotted that larger boat -- the 44-foot Abundance -- drifting aimlessly in Behm Canal about 40 miles northeast of Ketchikan. Knopps was described as "severely hypothermic" when he was found.

Anchorage lawyer becomes MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient: Margaret Stock, a 51-year-old Anchorage lawyer, has been named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, often referred to as the "Genius Grant." Stock was selected for the $625,000 grant -- paid out over the course of five years -- based on her work on immigration and national security law, according to the MacArthur Foundation, which issues the grant. "...Stock articulates the crucial role of a healthy and efficient immigration system in responding to changes in the global economy and maintaining the foundational values of our democracy," the foundation wrote in a release announcing the winners