ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A $1.7 million congressional appropriation, arranged by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, is paying for seven new weather buoys for the National Weather Service in Alaska.
A ceremony Friday at the U.S. Coast Guard base in Kodiak celebrated the deployment of the first two new buoys.
One is in the Barren Islands just west of Kennedy Entrance, between Kodiak Island and the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula. The second is on the Fairweather Grounds about 32 miles southwest of Lituya Bay.
On Tuesday, the Fairweather buoy reported benign conditions in that corner of the Gulf of Alaska: 4-foot seas, 60-degree air and water temperature, and a 1-knot breeze out of the west.
Five more buoys will be deployed along the western and central Aleutian Islands and southwest of Sitka Sound by the end of 2003. Ship and tug companies, fishermen, coastal communities and the Coast Guard picked locations where new buoys were most needed.
The appropriation is an unprecedented increase for one region, officials say.
''That's not happened to us as far as I know, really ever for a specific geographic area,'' Glenda Schnornick, spokeswoman for the National Data Buoy Center, told the Anchorage Daily News.
The 20-foot hulking yellow metal buoys beam hourly weather and sea conditions to satellites for transmission to the National Data Buoy Center in Mississippi. The center -- a branch of the National Weather Service -- passes the data to forecasters and posts it on a Web site available to the public at http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov.
There are already five weather buoys in the waters off Alaska, including two in Prince William Sound, two several hundred miles on either side of Kodiak and one in the Bering Sea.
The two new buoys bring the national total to 73.
With nearly 60 percent of the U.S. shoreline, Alaska will have a dozen weather buoys when all are deployed. The state's harsh weather and maritime commerce make accurate predictions a must, forecasters say.
''I can already detect some subtle changes showing up in our forecast,'' said Greg Matzen, the weather service's Alaska marine program manager.
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