Sun sets in Barrow for first time since spring

Posted: Monday, August 04, 2003

BARROW (AP) The 5,000 residents of Barrow have not seen a sunset since May 10, just 24-hour daylight as the sun has circled the sky.

But that all changed on Sunday when the sun set at 1:49 a.m., giving folks at least a little twilight until it rose again 89 minutes later at 3:18 a.m.

Now that the sun has starting dipping below the horizon again, the amount of darkness in this farthest north U.S. community proceeds rather rapidly.

Monday the sun sets at 1:34 a.m. and rises two hours later, a 31-minute increase in darkness. That continues until the sun sets for the year on Nov. 18, not to rise again until Jan. 23, 2004.

Most residents here are used to the geographic phenomenon that comes from being so far north. Still, this time of the year always brings some kinds of minor anticipation.

''Now it will be easier to get the kids to go to bed,'' said Nancy Tuckfield, the mother of 2-year-old twins. ''It's kind of like back to normal when we have both day and night.''

Health officials also anticipate some folks becoming negatively affected as the darkness brings on instances of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The mood disorder usually causes depression, sleep disorders or other physical problems.

Jerry Nordstrom, a counselor with the North Slope Borough Health Department, said ways to avoid SAD include getting physical exercise; keeping the mind active by talking, reading or learning; and by reducing sugar intake and cutting out alcohol.

Some people affected by the disorder also use light boxes for 15-30 minutes a day.

The first sunset also means the city's streetlights will start turning on again, now that their automatic light sensors have something to sense. But some residents got a sneak preview of that last Monday as Barrow endured a severe wind storm. Winds gusting to 50 mph blew up enough dust to darken the skies and trigger the street lights on.

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