Local News

Critical Sitka weather buoy back in service

The crew of the 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Maple redeploys a NOAA weather data buoy 29 miles southwest of Cape Edgecumbe, near Sitka, Aug. 20. The cutter crew originally recovered the buoy in September 2012 when it became adrift in the Gulf of Alaska. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by cutter Maple)

The crew of the 225-foot Coast Guard Cutter Maple redeploys a NOAA weather data buoy 29 miles southwest of Cape Edgecumbe, near Sitka, Aug. 20. The cutter crew originally recovered the buoy in September 2012 when it became adrift in the Gulf of Alaska. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by cutter Maple)

The Cape Edgecumbe weather buoy, which records observations and reports them on a website from a station off-shore from Sitka, is back in service.

The buoy has a tendency to break free from its anchor. The Coast Guard Cutter Maple, which is home-ported in Sitka, picked up the buoy in September 2012, after it spent six days adrift.

The buoy is operated by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and provides weather observations to the National Weather Service, as well as mariners. Lt. Ray Reichl is the executive officer aboard the Maple. He says there are several weather buoys throughout the Gulf of Alaska, but the one off Sitka is especially important.

“It’s not just the commercial fishery that utilizes this one,” he said. “It’s utilized heavily by the recreational fleet as well as normal commercial traffic – non-fishery related.”

The Maple returned the buoy to service on Aug. 20. It takes about 30 minutes to physically put the buoy back on station. But the job doesn’t end there.

“Once it’s in the water floating free, it’s about a four-hour test and evaluation process to make sure the sensors that it’s sending back to the satellite and to the viewers on the website is the same as the actual on-scene weather that we’re observing,” Reichl said.

KCAW spoke to Reichl while he was in Kodiak, where the Maple had traveled to tend to some buoys in the western Gulf of Alaska.

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