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AK Beat: Search continues for fisherman missing along Willow Creek

Alaska Dispatch News

 Search efforts continue for missing Missouri fisherman without success: At least 15 people continued to search along Willow Creek on Wednesday for 71-year-old Jerry Warner, a fisherman from Richland, Mo., said Alaska State Troopers. Warner was last seen walking upstream Sunday along the Mat-Su creek with a fishing rod. He did not have survival gear or a phone. On Tuesday, dogs involved in the search effort encountered a log jam in the creek. “They thought there might be something there,” said Clint Vardeman, deputy director of the Mat-Su Borough’s Department of Emergency Services. He said the borough’s water rescue team searched the area. Others used an underwater camera to probe the creek’s deeper pools where debris barred divers from safely entering, troopers said. Vardeman said he expected searchers on horseback to travel the area Wednesday afternoon. Troopers said searchers could not use four-wheelers because the brush is too thick near the creek and there are no trails.

Alaska State Troopers seek missing teen: WEDNESDAY EVENING UPDATE: Alaska State Troopers said in a statement late Wednesday that Richard Wellfort was found safe in Fairbanks at about 6:30 p.m. ORIGINAL STORY: Alaska State Troopers are asking the public to help find a 14-year-old North Pole boy who hasn’t been seen since he ran away from home in late June. Richard Wellfort  left his home on foot on June 29, said troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen. Since then, his social media accounts have been silent, and no one has communicated with Wellfort. Troopers have searched the area and shown Wellfort’s photograph to residents and local businesses, but no one reported seeing him, Ipsen said. Wellfort was described as 5-foot-6-inches tall and 108 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes. He was wearing a yellow Aeropostale T-shirt, camouflage shorts and flip-flops when he was last seen by family. He is also known to give the name Andrew Cullens, Ipsen said. Anyone with information on Wellfort’s whereabouts can call Alaska State Troopers at 907-451-5100. 

Massive tailings dam failure spills wastewater into B.C. Rivers: The failure of a dam holding back a large tailings pond at a gold and copper mine in British Columbia has sent 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater downstream in the Quesnel and Cariboo river system, according to numerous reports. As the CBC reports, that amount of water would fill 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Video taken from a helicopter shows a broad area affected. The mine is located 400 miles southeast of Ketchikan, reports Ketchikan Public Radio KBRD. Exactly what chemicals are in the wastewater remains unknown, reports The TyeeThe affected tributaries drain into Fraser River, where fishing for a forecast record run of sockeye salmon recently got underway. The Vancouver Sun reports that the spill puts the state of those returns in doubt, saying the peak wave of the migrating salmon will reach the Quesnel -- and the toxic debris -- in about two weeks: “The timing of this spill couldn’t be worse in terms of the return of the sockeye,” Craig Orr, executive director of Watershed Watch Salmon Society, told the Sun. Alaska has a harvest-sharing arrangement with Canada that includes some of those fish, Petersburg Vessel Owners Association’s Brian Lynch told KRBD, but the real fear in Southeast Alaska is the approximately half-dozen British Columbia mines in the planning stages much nearer to Southeast Alaska -- some of which drain into Alaska watersheds: “Guy Archibald of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council says they all plan to store tailings, which contain acidic rock and toxic metals, behind dams similar to the one that broke,” KRBD reports. The stock price of Imperial Metals Corp. plunged to it’s lowest levels on new of the spill, destroying nearly half of the company’s value, Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported. Meanwhile, the spill as galvanized opposition to planned LNG pipelines in British Columbia, reports Straight.com.

The smartwatch that calls search and rescue for you: In what could be either a big plus for search and rescue in Alaska, or a huge nightmare, Timex is unveiling a $400, GPS-linked smartwatch for everyday wear that can be used to send an SOS. Due out in the fall, the watch is already getting considerable buzz in the running and cycling press. "A runner can set up a network of 'angels,' the people you designate who can track your run in real-time,'' reported U.S.A. Today. "There's an SOS mode, too: In case of an emergency, you can press a button to send alerts with your location." Rescue personnel will, no doubt, like the idea of signals marked by a point on the map thanks to GPS, the international global positioning system. Knowing where to look for someone in trouble makes it faster and easier to find them. But, given existing technology, rescuers are already dealing with a significant number of unnecessary calls. The new technology could add to that problem. The Timex Ironman One GPS+ Smartwatch would also appear to have one significant liability in Alaska; it uses existing cell-phone networks, not satellites, to communicate, and cell phone service in most of the 49th state remains spotty or non-existent. Outside of the state's major cities, the best device for signaling for help remains the DeLorme InReach, a seven-ounce, handheld device about the size of a pack of cigarettes that allows one to summon help from almost anywhere and offers texting capabilities for communicating with searchers.

Bears have it easy: Earlier this year researchers explained how polar bears can subsist on a meaty diet so full of fat it would quickly send humans to the cardiac ward. Now comes news that their cousins, brown bears, have some enviable fat-handling abilities, too, reports NPR: “Grizzly bears can easily double their body fat in the months leading up to hibernation. For us humans, this kind of weight gain could result in some pretty serious health consequences — one of the most common being Type 2 diabetes.” But bears don’t react to insulin in the same way humans do, researchers in a recently published study found. In fact, the bears’ cells can change how they respond to insulin to accommodate their cycle of fall gorging and winter hibernation -- though the exact mechanism of the so-called “insulin dimmer switch” remains a mystery.

Chugach warns against disconnect scam: Alaska’s largest electric utility is warning customers about a phone scam where the caller demands credit card information to avoid disconnected electric service. In a release Wednesday morning, officials with Chugach Electric Association said the scam is in use across the United States, and stressed the utility “does not do business this way.” Before disconnecting service, the utility follows a series of steps, including advance notification, and will not take credit card payments directly, the release said. Anyone who receives a call demanding payment to avoid disconnected service should hang up, call Chugach to check their account status, and report the incident to police, the release said. People can report online at muni.org/apd. A spokesperson for Chugach Electric said the utility’s member services department had fielded about one scam call per week for the last two months. “It’s not like it’s overwhelming, but it’s something that’s happening,” said the spokesperson, Sarah Wiggers. She said Municipal Light and Power has also reported incidences of the scam. To Wiggers’ knowledge, no Chugach Electric customers had yet lost any money on the scam. 

Ticket in musk ox shooting downgraded to warning: A women in Nome who was ticketed for shooting a musk ox in the Seward Peninsula city last month has had her citation reduced to a written warning, but she still insists that she killed the animal in defense of life and property, she told radio station KNOM. Diana Adams, who shot the musk ox in her backyard, described to KNOM what happened when the musk ox approached her dog until the pair were standing nose to nose: “I really felt scared for the dog. I was afraid the dog would get hurt. So I aimed the shotgun at the animal and even then I didn’t shoot. I just waited,” said Adams. “And when the muskox dipped its head as I’ve seen them do so many times before when they attack something, then I shot it.” A few days later, KNOM notes, another dog in Nome was fatally gored by another musk ox.