Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)


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Alaska 2012: Going Out with a Bang

This has been the craziest week I have ever had in Alaska.

So many things have gone wrong that I can’t even keep track of them anymore!

Here’s a short list of the insanity that has permeated my last week in the 49th state:

  • Multiple power outages, including one that lasted nearly 7 hours (during which we also had no water at the lodge, or in the entire canyon for that matter). 1,000+ guests with no access to flushing toilets is BAD!
  • Crazy weather–High winds were the cause of the major power outage, but we also experienced snow at the higher elevations, rain, and even some sunshine; all just in the past week.
  • A shooting about 25 miles north of where I live (the Troopers shot and killed a man who had shot another man)
  • Some horrible cases of fraud against many of my co-workers (not going to go into more on that)
  • The biggest, and most inconvenient issue… Flooding/extremely high river levels–Many of the river systems in the interior of Alaska, and even as far south as Seward, experienced the highest water levels on record this week. The flooding of the Talkeetna River, and breach of the local levee, caused the small town of Talkeetna to be evacuated.

The Nenana River–which runs right through the heart of Denali and Healy–was a sight to behold. The normally slow-moving, glacier-fed river turned into a roiling, opaque, screaming mass of water overnight. I have never seen anything like it. There were entire pine trees being swept downstream at highway speeds.

By early Friday afternoon, it was clear that the river was doing some major damage. An entire portion of the Parks Highway (the only road linking Anchorage and Fairbanks) was being eaten away by the river. With each passing hour, the river grew ever higher and wider and eroded more and more of the embankment. By about 7:00p on Friday night, it was clear that the road was in serious trouble. I got the call to head back to the lodge (about a 15 minute drive from where I live) with an overnight bag–I would be spending the night at the hotel in case the road was closed.

That one night turned into two. Two scary, frustrating, and bizarre nights, to be sure. I was never worried for my safety or the safety of our lodge guests. My biggest concern was how I would be able to get back to my room in Healy, pack my bags, clean, and catch my transportation to Anchorage on Tuesday if the road were closed.

We all woke up this morning still not knowing if we had a functioning road or not or whether we would be spending a third night in-house. The Alaska Department of Transportation has been working around the clock to fix the road, and as of this evening when I was headed back to Healy (yep, didn’t have to spend another night at the lodge), everything seemed to be stabilized. Luckily, the river levels have started to go down and the DOT was able to drop large boulders and dirt onto the embankment to strengthen the road.

It has been truly amazing to see our company jump into action and solve problems and situations one after another. It certainly has taught us all some lessons and it was nothing if not exciting.

After all this, however, I am more than ready for the season to be over. I fly out of Anchorage late Tuesday night bound for Los Angeles. I’ll only be spending one night there (to apply for my Bulgarian visa) before heading back to Utah for a month-long visit with my family and friends.

It’s been a summer to remember!

Here are some photos I snapped of the highway before the crews started repair work:

I’m looking forward to sleeping in, going to a few movies, eating my favorite foods, and spending time with all my peeps before going back to Bulgaria in early November.

I hope you continue to follow my adventures!

W.

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