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Cold Bay

Udaamagax, Pualu
Aerial view of Cold Bay taken during the early 21st century. Cold Bay Airport's runways are visible.
Aerial view of Cold Bay taken during the early 21st century.
Cold Bay Airport's runways are visible.
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Coordinates: 55°12′33″N 162°42′51″W / 55.20917°N 162.71417°W / 55.20917; -162.71417
Country United States
State Alaska
Borough Aleutians East
Incorporated January 1982
Government
 • Type Mayor–council
Area
 • Total 68.06 sq mi (176.26 km2)
 • Land 53.41 sq mi (138.34 km2)
 • Water 14.64 sq mi (37.92 km2)
Elevation
138 ft (42 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 50
 • Density 0.94/sq mi (0.36/km2)
Time zone UTC−9 (Alaska (AKST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−8 (AKDT)
ZIP code
99571
Area code 907 (local prefix: 532)
FIPS code 02-16530
GNIS feature ID 1418448
Website http://www.coldbay.org/

Cold Bay (Aleut: Udaamagax,; Sugpiaq: Pualu) is a city in Aleutians East Borough, Alaska, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 108.

Cold Bay is one of the main commercial centers of the Alaska Peninsula, which extend west towards the Aleutian Islands, and is home to Cold Bay Airport.

History

There is evidence of prehistoric occupation by Aleuts and later Russian encampments. Cold Bay's American history began with the Japanese invasion of the Aleutians in World War II. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. ordered the creation of Fort Randall, an airbase on the shores of Cold Bay, in 1942 as a part of a general expansion of American assets in the Aleutians. It (along with Otter Point) served as a base for the 11th Air Force to provide protection to the only deep water port in the Aleutians at the time, Dutch Harbor.

This protection was necessary when during Yamamoto's Midway Campaign a diversionary attack was launched against Dutch Harbor. The initial attack was repulsed by the surprise presence of P-40s stationed here. A second larger attack with its own fighter escort the next day caused minor damage. Later, with the victory in the Pacific, the forces grew to 20,000 troops. The quonset huts used to house this massive encampment still stand around the community. It also was a base of operations for the US Navy with the seaplane tender USS Casco (AVP-12) among the ships based in Cold Bay.

In the spring and summer of 1945, Cold Bay was the site of the largest and most ambitious transfer program of World War II, Project Hula, in which the United States transferred dozens of ships and craft to the Soviet Union and trained Soviet personnel in their operation in anticipation of the Soviet Union entering the war against Japan.

In later decades, control of the airfield passed to civil authorities, who maintained it as a useful refueling and emergency landing location for great circle flights from the west coast of the United States to East Asia. A Distant Early Warning Line station established nearby was eventually decommissioned.

During the 1980s, deregulation of the airline industry under President Ronald Reagan caused many of the compelling interests supporting the need for the community to evaporate. Today, Cold Bay is still occasionally used for emergency or precautionary landings of commercial flights, and is also a hub for traffic from Anchorage and Seattle to the small communities around it.

Geography

Cold Bay is located at 55°12′33″N 162°42′51″W / 55.20917°N 162.71417°W / 55.20917; -162.71417 (55.209038, -162.714298). It is west of Hawaii.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 70.9 square miles (184 km2), of which, 54.4 square miles (141 km2) of it is land and 16.6 square miles (43 km2) of it (23.34%) is water.

Cold Bay holds the record for most overcast community in America.

Climate

Cold Bay has the typical subpolar oceanic climate (Köppen Cfc) of southwest Alaska, though the winters are almost cold enough to qualify as a subarctic climate (Dfc) and the summers are almost cool enough to qualify as a polar climate (ET). Cold Bay is considered the cloudiest place in the United States, with an average of 304 days of heavy overcast (covering over 3/4 of the sky).

Climate data for Cold Bay, Alaska
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 51
(10.6)
50
(10)
56
(13.3)
60
(15.6)
67
(19.4)
72
(22.2)
77
(25)
78
(25.6)
76
(24.4)
69
(20.6)
59
(15)
54
(12.2)
78
(25.6)
Average high °F (°C) 33.1
(0.61)
32.0
(0)
34.8
(1.56)
37.9
(3.28)
44.4
(6.89)
50.4
(10.22)
55.1
(12.83)
55.9
(13.28)
52.2
(11.22)
44.3
(6.83)
38.9
(3.83)
35.3
(1.83)
42.9
(6.06)
Daily mean °F (°C) 28.6
(-1.89)
27.4
(-2.56)
29.9
(-1.17)
33.3
(0.72)
39.6
(4.22)
45.7
(7.61)
50.5
(10.28)
51.5
(10.83)
47.7
(8.72)
39.6
(4.22)
34.4
(1.33)
31.0
(-0.56)
38.3
(3.5)
Average low °F (°C) 24.1
(-4.39)
22.8
(-5.11)
25.0
(-3.89)
28.6
(-1.89)
34.8
(1.56)
40.9
(4.94)
46.0
(7.78)
47.1
(8.39)
43.2
(6.22)
34.8
(1.56)
29.9
(-1.17)
26.6
(-3)
33.7
(0.94)
Record low °F (°C) −8
(-22.2)
−9
(-22.8)
−13
(-25)
4
(-15.6)
18
(-7.8)
29
(-1.7)
33
(0.6)
33
(0.6)
26
(-3.3)
10
(-12.2)
1
(-17.2)
−1
(-18.3)
−13
(-25)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.84
(72.1)
2.27
(57.7)
2.10
(53.3)
1.97
(50)
2.29
(58.2)
2.10
(53.3)
2.52
(64)
3.24
(82.3)
4.41
(112)
4.34
(110.2)
4.19
(106.4)
3.67
(93.2)
35.94
(912.9)
Snowfall inches (cm) 10.8
(27.4)
10.6
(26.9)
10.5
(26.7)
5.7
(14.5)
1.6
(4.1)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
2.7
(6.9)
8.3
(21.1)
11.2
(28.4)
61.3
(155.7)
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01-inch) 19.0 17.3 18.0 16.1 17.4 16.0 16.7 19.9 20.7 22.7 21.6 20.6 226
Avg. snowy days (≥ 1.0 inch) 3.6 3.6 3.6 1.8 0.5 0 0 0 0 1.0 2.5 3.6 20.2

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 231
1960 86
1970 256 197.7%
1980 228 −10.9%
1990 148 −35.1%
2000 88 −40.5%
2010 108 22.7%
2020 50 −53.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

Cold Bay first appeared on the 1890 U.S. Census as the unincorporated area of "Thin Point", which included Thin Point & Cold Bay (including two canneries and Cold Bay Salting Station). It reported 231 residents, of which 110 were White, 106 were Asian, ten were Creole (Mixed Russian & Native), three were Native and two were Other. It would not appear again until 1960, when it reported as the unincorporated village of Cold Bay. It was made a census-designated place (CDP) in 1980 and incorporated in 1982.

Cold Bay is a highly transient community, lacking the generational attachment characteristic of the surrounding native villages. Residents, drawn to the area largely by the Wildlife Refuge, Weather Service, or air traffic jobs, rarely stay more than a year in Cold Bay.

Religion

Cold Bay has a significant Baptist population. The city's only church is Cold Bay Community Chapel, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Culture

Traditions

A major community event is the Silver Salmon Derby, a fishing contest that takes place every fall. Participants vie in both adult and child categories for cash prizes for the largest fish. A raft race and "Polar Bear Jump" are also held. The Derby concludes with a banquet and door prize giveaway in the school gymnasium.

Parks and recreation

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

The 498,000-acre (2,020 km2) Izembek refuge was established in 1960. It encompasses several large lagoons, including the 30-mile (48 km) Izembek Lagoon, which serve as a food source and shelter for a large migratory bird population.

Approximately 130,000 Pacific black brant, 62,000 emperor geese, 50,000 Taverner's Canada geese, 300,000 ducks, and 80,000 shore birds stop over in the Izembek area during migration and as many as 50,000 Steller's eiders find winter grounds there.

Economy

Cold Bay has one store, the Bearfoot Inn Alaska, formerly known as the World-famous Weathered Inn. It supplies groceries, clothing and small trinkets to the residents of Cold Bay and other communities within the Aleutians East Borough, although many residents order groceries and supplies from suppliers in Anchorage and Seattle. The Bearfoot Inn also offers lodging with its 8-room hotel and 6-room bunk house. Within the main building there is the Bearfoot Inn Bar which is open 3 to 6 days a week depending on the season. Bearfoot Inn is within walking distance of the airport.

The Cold Bay Lodge is the only restaurant in town. The lodge can accommodate up to about 40 people (38 beds), offers wireless Internet access, holds a liquor license, is less than a mile from the airport and offers trinkets and snacks.

Education

Cold Bay School

The Cold Bay School was the community's public grade school, operated by the Aleutians East Borough School District (AEBSD), until its closure in May 2015. AEBSD's school board voted to close Cold Bay School following the conclusion of the 2014–2015 school year due to a decline in enrollment, which led to the loss of state funding. The school employed one teacher and served between four and nine students in its last years. The loss of the school caused an exodus of the remaining school-aged children until, by 2015, only one was left.

Circa 1978 the school, then a part of the Aleutian Region School District, had two teachers, and 37 students. In the 1980s, the school typically enrolled around 30 students. In 1985 it reached peak enrollment, with 50 students and four teachers. Despite its remote location, the school was involved in state and national activities, such as hosting the military's "Operation Arctic Care" outreach health program in 2002, and by briefly becoming involved with reporting for CNN Student Bureau that same year.

The school building was used to house passengers of flights which made emergency landings in Cold Bay.

Infrastructure

Transportation

Road

Cold Bay has approximately 40 miles (64 km) of gravel roads, and a state-owned paved highway.

Water

The Alaska Marine Highway travels between Cold Bay and Kodiak twice a month between May and October, and cargo ships visit the city monthly from Seattle, Washington. Currently, the city only has a dock and a seaplane base, but the city hopes to develop a breakwater, boat harbor and boat launch.

Air

Cold Bay is serviced by Cold Bay Airport, holding the fifth-largest runway in Alaska, and a second, smaller one. Regional flights occur six times a week.

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