Zaz Hollander

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PALMER -- Growers vying for the title in the Alaska State Fair’s Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off must face down the Alaska garden axis of evil: slugs, moose and cloudy skies.

But a rare opponent surfaced this year in the quest for the cruciferous crown.

The sun...

Shelby Lum,Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Growers vying for the title in the Alaska State Fair’s Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off must face down the Alaska garden axis of evil: slugs, moose and cloudy skies.

But a rare opponent surfaced this year in the quest for the cruciferous crown.

The sun.

Even weigh-off champion Steve Hubacek, a Wasilla dentist who won the cabbage competition and a $2,000 pot Friday night, conceded defeat to the summer’s record-high temperatures.

Hubacek seemed a little disappointed that his winner -- the 92.15-pound “Maxilla from Wasilla” -- failed to make his 100-pound goal. He'd grown a previous record-holder of 127, after all.

The sensitive art of freakishly large cabbage growing isn’t immune from the specter of climate change...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- A fuel tanker flipped near the interchange of the Parks and Glenn highways Friday afternoon in a fiery accident that diverted traffic headed to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.

No one was injured but more than 6,000 gallons of gasoline spilled and burned, authorities say.

The fire started around 12:15 p.m. after a tire blew as the Fisher’s Fuel truck rounded a curve on the Palmer off ramp, according to Brittany Lais, a manager at the company's Big Lake office. The truck was carrying 10,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline, she said.

The rear trailer rolled over and caught fire, Lais said. The company doesn’t yet know what caused the accident...

Zaz Hollander,Megan Edge

PALMER -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s new tax on increasingly popular electronic cigarettes still stands, to objections from e-cig smokers and sellers, and praise from anti-smoking groups.

The borough Assembly two weeks ago passed a new tax on “vape” shops -- three operate in the Mat-Su, providing much of the Valley’s e-cigarettes, merchants say -- by tacking on new language to an existing tobacco tax, mostly intended to keep young customers from starting the smoking habit.

The devices hold liquid (which may contain nicotine) that’s vaporized and inhaled but produces vapor instead of smoke...

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- A 55-year-old Willow resident was injured, though not critically, after another man fired a shot into a residence north of Willow on the Parks Highway Wednesday morning, Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Troopers took a suspect, 69-year-old Lincoln Mark of Willow, into custody without incident at a residence near Mile 76 of the highway. He drove away after firing the round, Peters said.

Marvin Mandros sustained injuries described as not life-threatening. The shooting “creased” his head, Mat-Su emergency officials said.

Mark was jailed on charges of second-degree misconduct involving a weapon and second- and third-degree assault.

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is finally on the verge of selling the ill-fated ferry Susitna after four years of trying and more than $2 million spent to store the never-used craft.

The borough Assembly late Tuesday voted unanimously to sell the 195-foot ferry to the Philippine Red Cross . Little fanfare accompanied the 11:30 p.m. action and just a handful of people were left in chambers. The Assembly was one member short: ferry spending critic Ron Arvin left to catch a flight.

The agreement they approved amounts to a $1.75 million payment for the ferry the borough originally hoped to sell for more than three times that amount...

Zaz Hollander

The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected a bid by a Lazy Mountain hay farmer -- and brother of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough mayor -- to stop paying local road taxes for roads he doesn’t use.

Ray DeVilbiss contends he doesn’t use the borough-maintained roads in his area -- he drives in and out on state-maintained North Wolverine Road -- yet pays $1,500 a year in taxes toward the local road-service area.

In 2011, DeVilbiss unsuccessfully petitioned the borough Assembly to remove his 110 acres from the service area it was annexed into in 1981. His brother Larry was elected that year to a largely ceremonial mayor position, though Ray DeVilbiss last year said his brother was no more helpful than any of the other bureaucrats involved...

Zaz Hollander

PALMER -- Small-plane flight restrictions that ushered in President Barack Obama’s Alaska visit didn't live up to concerns about interrupted hunting and flightseeing trips.

Few pilots landed to be screened Monday at security checkpoints set up at Palmer's "gateway airport" for screening wheeled aircraft or at Wasilla Lake for floatplanes as temporary flight restrictions announced last week by the Federal Aviation Administration got underway.

Federal officials tried to encourage general aviation pilots to fly during open periods. Palmer airport superintendent Jeff Combs said he heard from hunters who planned to head out before the restrictions and return after the president left...

Zaz Hollander

WILLOW -- The sun was warming blackened spikes of spruce, but winter was already bearing down on Jim Sprengel as he stood in the new concrete footing of his future home.

Sprengel is one of dozens of Willow residents working with ever-increasing urgency to rebuild homes incinerated in the mid-June Sockeye Fire before the cold and snow return.

“Right now I got a long ways to go,” he said Thursday, standing in the pit off Maleia Lane where his house used to be. “It’s where I live. It’s what I do. And winter’s coming.”...

Zaz Hollander

MEADOW LAKES -- A barrage of firefighters knocked down a fast-moving blaze at the Motor Rage of Alaska car dealership near Wasilla Friday afternoon, but not before it destroyed the business and displaced a tenant sleeping inside who escaped unharmed.

The fire, first reported in the green two-story metal building around 2:45 p.m., sent thick black smoke billowing into the air near Mile 50 of the Parks Highway once it got going.

About 40 to 50 firefighters responded, tackling the flames erupting from the second floor with two aerial ladder trucks that sprayed water down onto the roof...

Zaz Hollander,Laurel Andrews