Tuesday, September 11, 2007
231. 9/11 and Alaska
When thinking about 9/11 almost no one thinks of any effects it may have had on Alaska. Alaska, however, is isolated from the rest of the US, and many of the communities in Alaska are isolated from any other area. We are more dependent on airplane service than the rest of the country. In the days after 9/11, no airplane flights were allowed. Even tiny private planes were grounded.
- Many people were stranded away from home when the airplanes were grounded. Some people, rather than wait for flights that had know of knowing when they would fly, rented cars and drove home. This is harder to do when you have to get to Alaska, which involved a several day's drive through Canada. There is also a lot of Alaska with no roads, and villages to which you can not drive.
- Most of Alaska gets groceries by airplane. While I know of no village that ran out of food, some people did mention that market shelves got noticeably emptier.
- Mail also goes in and out of Alaska by airplane. Not only could people not get mail to or from the rest of the country, villages could not get mail from each other.
- Many villages do not have doctors. A person from a small bush town (like Deering) must fly to the nearest village with a doctor or hospital. In case of an emergency, like someone in a small village having a heart attack, each hospital keeps a plane ready to go to any village in a moment's notice. (If the weather prevents flying, that person is SOL.)
- The problem that seems to have caused the most concern was stranded hunters. Hunting is very popular in the Alaskan bush, where it is the easiest and cheapest source of food. Many Alaskans rely primarily on the meat from hunting. Many hunting trips involve camping in the wilderness. A hunter is dropped off by airplane in the middle of nowhere. he makes arrangements with the pilot to pick him up at a specific time a few days later. The hunter has supplies for the few days but not much else. A number of hunters were left stranded because the pilots that were supposed to pick them up were not allowed to fly. Many hunters had no way of contacting the outside world (These areas do not get cell phone service) and did not know anything about 9/11's events. All they knew was that were there with a very limited food supply and the pilot who was supposed to pick them up didn't. After a couple of days, even though the country was still not allowing any flights at all, the Alaskan whoever-is-in-charge decided that planes could go to pick up these hunters.