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AK Beat: High school athletes headed home after bus crash

Alaska Beat
Alaska Department of Public Safety

Peninsula high school skiers head home: Ski teams from Kenai Central and Skyview High School were headed home Saturday afternoon after a road trip to Valdez ended with the crash of the teams' chartered bus. Forty-nine students, coaches and chaperones were onboard a Unique Bus Charters vehicle on Friday when they collided with a state Department of Transportation truck at mile 55 on the Richardson Highway. After the crash, students were transported to a Valdez school, where they were evaluated by a medical triage team. Several were sent to Providence Valdez Medical Center for further evaluation and subsequently released; the bus driver and one student were medevacked to Anchorage, according to information provided by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, and that student has since been released as well. Given the circumstances, the teams did not participate in the Valdez Invitational ski meet for which they had made the trip, but coaches expressed gratitude to emergency responders, local officials and Valdez residents who responded to the incident. "We feel very fortunate about how everything turned out," KCHS head coach Brad Nyquist said in a KPBSD press release. "The kids are doing great ... The Valdez community opened their arms and made us feel welcome and safe." Communication with parents was problematic following the crash due to poor wireless phone service in the area, and Nyquist apologized for the delays in communication. The teams left Valdez at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday and are expected to be home between 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Alaskans dense enough for 108 Earths: How many Earths would we need if Alaska's population density extended around the globe? That's the question posed by Gizmodo writer Tim Urban. The answer -- if everyone on Earth lived at the population density we enjoy here on the Last Frontier, we'd need 108 planets to fit the 7 billion people currently inhabiting the world -- appears to be based on a statewide average population density, which, of course, doesn't account for the fact that about 40 percent of the state's population is localized in Anchorage, where the population density is comparable to other U.S. cities of similar size.

River ice lacking statewide: Seward's Icebox isn't chillin' the way it once did, according to the National Weather Service, which reports Alaska started the new year short on ice. River ice measurements across the state showed ice lacking almost everywhere. The Chena River in Fairbanks was only about 50 percent of normal. Reports are still coming in from the two big rivers that become frozen highways through Alaska in the winter -- the Yukon River of the Interior and the Kuskokwim River of Western Alaska -- but they appear to be following the trend of about 75 percent less ice this year than in most years. "The slower growth of ice this winter is a result of one of the warmest autumns on record in northern Alaska, which delayed freeze-up by several weeks at some locations," the regional office of the National Weather Service noted on its Facebook page. "Prolonged periods of above-freezing temperatures in October combined with above-normal temperatures through much of November contributed to the thinner ice this winter." This is not good news for the thousands of Alaskans who use snowmachines to travel the 49th state's frozen waterways in winter. Extra caution is being advised. Open water is a danger even in the coldest of winters, but the lack of ice build up makes it even more of a danger this year.