Zaz Hollander

BIG LAKE -- A drive to make a city out of Big Lake is revealing a deep split between residents seeking more local control and those leery of any more government at all.

Once a recreation destination more dominated by weekend cabins than full-time homes, Big Lake is becoming a booming residential community.

Projections indicate Big Lake’s population could swell to more than 6,000 within 10 years -- the size that Palmer is now, city supporters say. The town is also grappling with a state proposal to route a four-lane highway through the middle of downtown from Port MacKenzie on Knik Arm to the Parks Highway...

Zaz Hollander

Drivers headed to Palmer this weekend will encounter a detour on the Glenn Highway as crews clean up and repair damage from a Sept. 4 fire that consumed a tanker that flipped while carrying more than 6,000 gallons of gasoline.

The northbound offramp to Palmer from the Glenn will be closed starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, according to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Drivers can use either the Old Glenn Highway exit off the Glenn or the Trunk Road exit off the Parks Highway to get around the closure.

A remediation contractor working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation will be removing contaminated soils and restoring the roadway to its original condition, the borough says. Crews hope to reopen the ramp early next week.

Zaz Hollander

BIG LAKE -- A fire at an unoccupied Big Lake home Thursday morning drew dozens of firefighters. It was briefly feared that one person was inside the house as flames engulfed the structure.

The fire destroyed the large wood home on West Lois Lane near Big Lake’s airport.

The first reports came in just before 7 a.m., according to West Lakes Fire Department Battalion Chief James Keel. By mid-morning, all that was left was the concrete foundation where the garage used to be, a few large sections of wall and piles of steaming debris that fire crews were dousing with water.

One of the homeowners was known to be at work, but for about 30 minutes it wasn’t clear whether the other person was still inside until they were located in Wasilla, Keel said...

Chris Klint,Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- Two Willow residents vying to represent the Susitna Valley and part of Meadow Lakes on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly disagree on the issues. But they've also butted heads in court.

Either Randall Kowalke or Doyle Holmes will replace outgoing Assembly member Vern Halter, a candidate for borough mayor who’s prevented by term limits from running again.

Holmes, 78, owns the Willow True Value hardware store and already served several terms on the Assembly, most recently in the late 1990s. His outspoken personality sometimes got him sideways with the public: A 1987 recall attempt was avoided only by a strong showing in his home precinct...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- The next mayor of Alaska’s fastest-growing region faces issues that include the state’s worst teacher-student ratio and fastest - growing senior population in a place with little major industry that's largely supported by property tax payments.

Local elections will be held Oct. 6 in the Valley.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough mayor’s race pits incumbent Larry DeVilbiss , 71, a former Alaska Division of Agriculture director who farms cattle and carrots on Lazy Mountain, against 66-year-old challenger Vern Halter , a former magistrate and Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race veteran with a Willow dog tour business...

Zaz Hollander

Rain-swollen rivers and creeks in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough were slowly starting to recede Wednesday morning as borough officials weighed reopening closed roads.

Willow Creek, which threatened as many as 10 homes in Willow and eroded or overtopped several roads Tuesday, had dropped by about a foot as of 8 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service . The creek rose as high as 11.1 feet Tuesday -- minor flooding starts at 10 feet -- and had dropped to 10.2 feet Wednesday morning...

Zaz Hollander

Several homes in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough were flooded by waters that also covered stretches of two minor roads Tuesday morning, as heavy rains expected to turn to snow later in the day continue to drench Southcentral Alaska.

Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services director Casey Cook said that five to 10 homes in Willow had experienced flooding, in areas including the washed-out roads -- West Kenny Boulevard and Burrows Road...

Zaz Hollander,Chris Klint

Heavy rain and wet snow wreaked havoc on much of southern Alaska on Tuesday, flooding homes and roads. A large swath of Alaska has been under advisories for storms, heavy rain, wind and flooding since the weekend.


On Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Anchorage, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Arctic Valley, Eagle River and Potter Marsh. According to NWS, rain over the previous 24 hours “caused streams to rise sharply.”

“Heavy rain has also caused ponding of water on many roads in the Anchorage Bowl and Glenn Highway,” NWS wrote.

NWS warned drivers not to attempt to drive across flooded streets and suggested finding alternate routes to travel...

Megan Edge,Chris Klint,Zaz Hollander

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for rivers and streams draining the Talkeetna Mountains and the foothills of the Alaska Range along Petersville Road Monday afternoon.

Streams have “begun to rise sharply” after heavy precipitation over a 24-hour period Sunday to Monday dropped more than an inch of rain on the area, the Weather Service said. The agency reported 2- to 3-foot rises in water levels as of 4 p.m. Monday.

A flood advisory means that river or stream flows are elevated or that ponding of water is occurring or imminent.The advisory includes the Talkeetna and Little Susitna rivers as well as Montana, Willow and Moose creeks. It remains in effect until 3:30 a.m. Wednesday...

Zaz Hollander

BUTTE -- Colette York came to the Knik River Public Use Area Shooting Range Friday to try out her new gun and hone her future moose-hunting skills.

Richard York coached his sister as she tucked the stock of the .308 bolt-action rifle against her right shoulder.

“Go ahead and squeeze one off and see what you think,” York, a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant, told her.

A thunderous echo bounced off the 5,500-foot Chugach Mountain peak dotted with fall colors that loomed over the range.

Dead center...

Zaz Hollander