YAKUTAT, ALASKA -- The T-shirts hanging by her cashier's booth at Monti Bay grocery remind Neva Ogle of the brief spurt of publicity that was focused on this tiny town just a year ago.
"Yakutat, Alaska -- Home of the Hubbard Glacier," is written on the keepsakes.
"It sure was exciting," Ogle said of the days when Yakutat and its galloping glacier were featured on national television, in magazines and newspapers. "But I don't think anybody locally gets too concerned anymore."
Hardware store operator Jake Jacobson shares her view.
"The Hubbard? No one talks about it much," Jacobson says. "I think it's sort of a whatever-will-happen-will-happen attitude."
The glacier astounded scientists last year when its normal inches-per-day pace went wild. The face of the glacier advanced hundreds of feet in a few weeks, damming the mouth of Russell Fiord about 30 miles north of Yakutat. Water threatened to overflow its banks and flood the land around Yakutat, including the primary source of the town's income, the fisheries-rich Situk River.
Marine mammal rescuers, accompanied by a horde of reporters and camera crews, descended on the town in a futile bid to save seals and porpoises trapped and dying behind the ice.
Water pressure broke the glacier dam four months after it formed, defusing the threat of a flood. The animals regained their route to the sea, and Yakutat quickly sank back into obscurity.
Mention the Hubbard these days and people are more likely to talk about last year's uproar than the possibility of a repeat performance.
In a place where glaciers grace the horizon at several points, outsiders are more exotic than ice, and people tick off the reporters they've met the way tourists keep a running tally of the wildlife they see.
"Last year, it was a panic up here," Jacobson recalls. "It was funny. It sure was funny."
But if residents don't worry much about what the glacier will do next, the question still is on the minds of scientists and government officials.
Glaciologists have predicted the fiord could be closed again within two years, with an overflow to follow in 12 to 14 months.
"The intensity, from my perspective, is every bit as much as it was in the past," says Bud Tomlinson of the U.S. Forest Service. "I see two years as not being too far away."
The Forest Service, which controls the fiord and the land it could flood, and the U.S. Park Service, which owns the glacier itself, have been busy coordinating a series of scientific projects designed to monitor the Hubbard's movement.
The 80-mile-long glacier flows from the Canadian mountains to tidewater in Alaska. As it nears the Pacific, it advances side-by-side with the Valerie glacier.
It was the surge of the smaller Valerie that pushed the Hubbard across the mouth of Russell Fiord in June 1986.
When the pressure of backed-up water broke the ice dam the following October, the cascade trimmed back the wall of ice.
But the Hubbard continues to advance at a slower pace. No one is sure whether a new dam would cause an overflow of the fiord-turned-lake. Based on the current shape of the ice face, glaciologists believe a new dam might be thicker than the old and more likely to plug the fiord for a long time.
That threatens Yakutat on several counts.
An economic study done for the city says the flooding of the Situk could cost local residents a third of their annual income. The clear river that wiggles across the marshy Yakutat forelands is a prime spawning ground for pink, coho and king salmon. Local Tlingit Indians depend on Situk salmon for winter food, and it supplements the store-bought provisions of many non-Tlingits as well.
The town also gets an economic boost from thousands of out-of-state sport fishermen who find world-class angling along the Situk. And the commercial fishermen who sail the Gulf of Alaska beyond the Situk's mouth depend on the river to provide much of their catch.
Situk fishing and local logging together contribute $2.2 million a year in a town where taxable incomes totaled just $4.6 million in 1982, according to the economic study done by Tom Meyer of the University of Alaska-Juneau.
A flood also could have troubling secondary effects.
The future of the timber industry hinges on forests beyond the Situk. If the current bridge is swept away and the flooded Situk turns into a five-mile-wide braid of channels -- as some people predict -- the Forest Service's logging plans could be washed out as well.
Meyer predicts glacier-related sightseeing may help make up for lost revenues.
Tourists already are coming to the area in greater numbers, but with little effect on the town, says Clarence Summers, U.S. Park Service district ranger.
He said seven cruise ships sailed to the Hubbard more than 100 times this summer. Last year, only two ships sailed the area. But none of the cruise ships dock, and aside from sports fishermen and wilderness travelers -- who rarely see more of Yakutat than the airport -- few tourists visit the town.
Although the local native corporation has discussed building a visitors' center, the general opinion of tourism is summed up by Jacobson, who rolls his eyes at the thought of souvenir shops along Yakutat's unpaved roads and tourists tripping past the fish processing factory.
"It's hard enough to sell hardware," he grumbles. "Let them sell trinkets to the tourists in Juneau."