Severe Icing Aboard the Fishing Vessel Alaskan Leader in January 2006

Deb Russell, Officer-in-Charge, Port Meteorological Office, Valdez Alaska
Photos courtesy of Dennis Black

A fairly strong area of high pressure moving off Siberia into the Bering Sea dropped temperatures into the low teens during mid January. Low Pressure held to the south along the Aleutian Islands and helped to tighten the pressure gradient, which resulted in Northeastly winds howling to the tune of 35 kts or greater. Sea reports ran anywhere from 10 to 20 ft during the period. The combination of cold air, strong winds, and high seas created dangerous freezing spray conditions for vessels operating in the area. According to Dennis Black, the Captain of the Alaskan Leader, the icing conditions were some of the worst he had ever experienced.

Valdez was able to obtain reports on the weather and icing conditions via a relatively new satellite telephone system. The satellite phone is used primarily for the collection of ship observations from vessels operating in Alaskan Waters. The phone reaches from the Gulf of Alaska to the Arctic Ocean with equal clarity and is credited with a significant increase in real time data via the VOS program.