November - December 10

November finally brought our first snow. On the 1st, 2nd & 3rd of November it snowed 4" every day. And it was very heavy snow because the temperatures were unseasonably warm, between 25 and 35 degrees. The snow stuck in all the trees and on the sides of trees because it was so wet. The impact of this snow was very evident in the deciduous trees that were bent over. Some of the trees along our road were bent over from one side of the road and almost touching the ground on the other side. It was truly beautiful with all the trees completely covered with snow. The landscape was almost completely white. I was able to stay ahead of the snow by snow blowing every day.

Click on picture to see more photos ............................................................................Trees bending over the road

However on the second day the road grader put a foot high foot wide berm across my driveway. Because of the large rocks in the berm I broke 5 shear bolts. On the third day it was better when I only broke one. Because the temperatures stayed so warm for the next week all the snow melted off the trees and the green returned.
On Friday, November 19 Bob & Don flew Covenant Youth in Alaska (CYAK) leaders from Anchorage to Unalakleet for a weekend of youth leader training. The weather was fine out to Unalakleet. We were trying to get to the Norton Sound before the weather went down. Our next run was to Nome, having decided we could not get into Elim, where we struggled with low clouds and ice. The temperature was right around freezing, which is very unusual for this time of the year. Coming back into Unalakleet we got a pilot report from another aircraft that there icing from 4500 feet down to 2500 feet (the bottom of the clouds). Sure enough we started picking up ice on the wings as we descended through 4500 feet. What was surprising was that even after we came out of the bottom of the clouds we continued to pick up ice all the way to the ground. The newly paved runway at Unalakleet was a sheet of ice which we can deal with because we can select the propellers to reverse for braking. All the roads in town were also a sheet of ice so that 15 MPH was the top speed we dare use.

That evening and the next day we joined the leaders and youth in training for their discussions. The group was made up of eleven adults, of which four were natives and six youth, of which three were natives. We were able to watch and participate in the discussions. These discussions addressed Alaska native values, signs of hope, signs of struggle, unmet expectations, the ten stages of grief, dealing with loss, development assets, and nurturing resilience & school success. The comments that had the most impact were those from Nathan & Isabella Toots (on the couch on the right side of the picture), native elders we brought from Anchorage and the youth examples of what they have dealt with. Mary, the leader, was able to get both adult and youth leaders to share how these issues have & are affecting them individually. The group dealt with some very tough issues of suicide and sexual abuse. It was very powerful to watch this group wrestling with the environment in which they lead youth activities. The last ideas discussed were how this knowledge could be used to focus their coming activities this year.

On Sunday morning we flew the Nome people home so they could attend church. There was some icing enroute and the weather was pretty low in Nome, but not so low we couldn’t get in. The flight back to Unalakleet was fine. We had asked the runway maintenance crew to sand the short cross runway for us because the wind speed and direction precluded us from using the long runway. After circling for a few minutes we landed uneventfully. Now taxiing was another story. As we turned around on the runway to taxi to the ramp, even with the sand, the mains wheels broke loose and we started to slide towards the edge of the runway. We were able to stop the slide and proceeded VERY cautiously to the ramp.

Click on picture to see more photos ..........................................................................................Skating Rink Roads

Once we were on the ramp we could not control the direction the plane went so we stopped. The sand truck driver saw our predicament ant asked if we wanted him to sand the portion of the ramp where we wanted to go. We said yes and had no further problems once we were on his sand track. Dealing with winter is normal up here, but dealing with above freezing temperatures, ice and then water on top of the ice, at this time of year, is not.
My only flight in December was to fly with Andy from Samaritan’s Purse (SP) on one of their flights to Marshall taking a plumber (from our church it turns out) an SP auditor, an SP contracts manager and the SP Project Manager. The plumber never did get to fix the problem he went up for because when we arrived they found out the pipes were frozen. They spent several hours trying to determine just why the pipes had frozen and what they had to do to correct the problem. Meanwhile the auditor, contracts person and I assembled a drum set, keyboard and stand, and audio board and two large speakers on stands including all connecting wiring. We were only missing two cables when we were done. The church is now well outfitted with a sound/music system. We flew home with a plan and the plumber went out on December 28 & 29 to implement the plan. Now they have sound and running water.