Katrina tops list of 2005’s biggest news stories

The South Whidbey Record’s top story of 2005 was also a top story nationally: Hurricane Katrina and the disaster’s impact on Whidbey Island.

Here’s the list of our top five stories of 2005, as selected by the newspaper’s editorial staff.

1. Hurricane Katrina.

The Gulf Coast disaster meant more than a gasoline crunch that sent prices soaring above $3 a gallon. Fallout from Katrina touched hundreds of lives on the South End for weeks after the tragedy. Survivors from the storm came to Whidbey Island to restart their lives, while many local residents traveled to Gulf Coast states to help as volunteers in the recovery effort. And many, many more held fundraisers across Whidbey Island and collected thousands of dollars in donations for hurricane relief.

2. County ag rules.

A battle over new rules for farming pitted farmers against environmentalists — and both sides against the county — and the controversy over the proposed regulations will most likely continue into 2006.

3. Hunting dispute.

The Board of Island County Commissioners failed to approve a new hunting ordinance that would have restricted waterfowl hunting in Deer Lagoon and allow deer hunting in the Kettles Trail area, Goss Lakes Woods and on Camano Ridge. Tempers flared between homeowners and hunters during several public meetings, and Useless Bay Colony property owners threatened the county with a lawsuit over hunting in Deer Lagoon.

4. Schools lay off teachers.

In the drive to build a $1 million fund balance within three years, South Whidbey School District administrators struggled to balance the 2005-06 budget. District officials laid off 15 part- and full-time teachers prior to the coming school year. The total number of teachers in the district fell from 128 this year to 113 next year. Certified staff members were also laid off, and teacher’s supply budgets were cut.

5. Clinton resident Steve Smith was one of three victims who died when an Airlift Northwest helicopter crash in the waters off Edmonds Sept. 29. Smith, along with flight nurses Erin Reed and Lois Suzuki, were onboard Airlift 4 as the helicopter was headed back to its home base in Arlington; they had just taken a patient to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. A crowd of about 1,500 including firemen, policemen, military and medics from all over the Northwest gathered with friends and family at a memorial service for the trio.

Other top stories that just missed the cut for the top five included:

The county rehiring controversial consultant Keith Dearborn as work beings to update the county’s critical areas ordinance.

The lawsuit filed in federal court by former administrators of the South Whidbey School District.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders’ launch of the Navy’s new X-Craft experimental vessel, and the subsequent death of a shipyard worker in an industrial accident.

The continuing squabble between the Port of South Whidbey and Langley over the city’s small boat harbor.

Fire District 3 hiring paid firefighters to provide round-the-clock emergency services.

How we made the list:

The top five stories were picked through a newsroom poll. Criteria included newsworthiness, amount of coverage given to the story in the Record, lives touched, and “buzz” — how much people talked about the topic in everyday life and in letters to the editor.

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