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Massive icicles in Bethel bring out the measuring tape

While record snowfall brought plenty of extra shoveling and plowing work for Bethel residents this year, it also set the stage for the dazzling array of icicles seen along the city’s many metal roofs in March. As the cold and sunny weather held, some grew to massive proportions and KYUK set out to investigate.

Without access to professional equipment, it was unclear whether KYUK’s improvised icicle measurement device is up to the job. The 10-foot tape measure zip-tied to a cheap tent pole swayed wildly. But then the pole wiggled into place under a massive shelf of ice and snow hanging off the side of the KYUK station building and offered a solid reading.

At 7 feet 5 and a half inches, the KYUK icicle was definitely going to be one of the longest in the field. But nearby at the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center, an icicle that appeared to be even longer hung from the far corner of the building.

A metal stairway provided convenient access to a high awning, and again the measuring stick found its mark. But looks were deceiving. The Yupiit Piciryarait icicle only measured 6 feet 9 inches.

With KYUK still the icicle to beat, the search continued around town. There had been talk of some possible contenders hanging off the side of the Swanson’s grocery store.

But while visually stunning, Swanson’s failed to even bring a 6-footer to the table. The situation was no better at the courthouse and fire station, at 63 inches and 57 inches respectively. The Association of Village Council Presidents Job Center barely edged out the courthouse at 63 and a half inches, while the Vitus fuel station only managed 49 inches.

But then, tucked in the maze of buildings behind the hospital, a giant hung from the low roof of the old Qavartarvik hostel building. By another half-inch margin, it beat out the KYUK icicle, stretching 90 inches.

With the competition neck and neck, the search moved north. The Alaska Commercial complex yielded little of interest. But at Bethel Regional High School, a behemoth hung from the corner of the gymnasium.

The tent pole swung wildly in the wind. One of the zip-ties popped loose and the measuring tape separated from the pole. Briefly, all seemed lost.

But then the unwieldy device managed to get a reading: 8 feet 10 inches long.

By a 16-inch margin over second-place Qavartarvik, Bethel Regional High School emerged as the champion. But with spring weather just around the corner, it was unlikely it would need to defend its title anytime soon.

Final Standings:

  1. Bethel Regional High School
106 in.
  1. Old Qavartarvik hostel
90 in.
  1. KYUK
89.5 in.
  1. Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center
81 in.
  1. Swanson’s
71 in.
  1. AVCP Tribal Jobs Center
63.5 in.
  1. Nora Guinn Justice Complex
63 in.
  1. Bethel Fire Department
57 in.
  1. Northstar Gas Vitus Terminal
49 in.
Evan Erickson is a reporter at KYUK who has previously worked as a copy editor, audio engineer and freelance journalist.
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