Damage assessment begins in remote Alaskan flooded villages

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – Alaskan authorities contacted some of the more remote villages in the United States on Monday to determine their food and water needs, as well as to assess damage after a massive storm flooded communities across the vast western territory of the United States. state. it costs this weekend.

No one was reported injured or killed during the massive storm – the remnants of Typhoon Merbok – as it traveled north across the Bering Strait over the weekend. However, damage to homes, roads and other infrastructure is only starting to be revealed with the receding floodwaters.

About 21,000 residents living in the small communities that dot a 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) stretch of Alaska’s west coast, a distance longer than the entire length of the California coast, were affected by the storm.

Many homes across the region have been flooded and some have been knocked off their foundations by rushing waters pushed by strong winds. Officials were initiating the process to determine damage to roads, ports, dams, and water and sewage systems.

The state Department of Transportation said most of the area’s airports were open and officials were carrying out temporary or permanent repairs to runways that still have problems, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security and Management. Alaska emergencies.

The storm stalled Monday in the Chukchi Sea near northwest Alaska, but was rapidly weakening after it affected weather patterns as far as California in its most powerful phase.

Coastal flood warnings have been extended to an area north of the Bering Strait as water will be slow to retreat in cities like Kotzebue, Kivalina and Shishmaref, National Weather Service meteorologist Kaitlyn Lardeo said.

Shishmaref had seen water spikes 5.5 feet (1.68 meters) above normal tide level, while Kotzebue and Kivalina had smaller peaks, but they were still without electricity on Monday, he said.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Sunday identified five communities – Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Golovin, Newtok, and Nome – as being severely affected by a combination of high water, flooding, erosion and electrical problems. Nome, where a house floated along a river until it was captured by a bridge, was among many that reported road damage after recording tidal surges 11.1 feet (3.38 meters) above normal .

Zidek said state officials were closely examining those five, but they also contacted every community in the region due to the numerous reports of damage.

“While the needs may be greater in some, we don’t want to overlook those other communities that have minor problems that still need to be resolved,” he said. However, efforts to reach some communities have been difficult due to broken lines of communication.

The state emergency operations center is fully equipped with military, state agencies, and volunteer organizations to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

Members of the Alaska National Guard in the western half of the nation’s largest state have been activated to help, in the communities they live in or elsewhere along the coast, he said.

The American Red Cross has 50 volunteers ready to help and they will be sent to the communities most in need.

Most of the support personnel will need to be airlifted to these communities as there are few roads in western Alaska. Providing air support will be the Alaska National Guard, small commuter airlines that fly regularly between these small villages and possibly bush pilots.

The weather always has a negative impact on flights in rural Alaska, but Zidek said the forecast looks favorable for conducting response operations.

“Three may be another smaller weather front on the way, but that’s nothing unusual for this time of year,” he said.

Dunleavy said it would request a federal disaster declaration as soon as the agencies gathered the necessary information on the damage. If approved, the governor said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would cover at least 75% of the eligible costs of the disaster, while the state would take into account the rest.

On Sunday, Dunleavy said weather was of the essence because frost, which means the onset of winter, can occur as early as October.

“We just have to impress our federal friends that it’s not a situation in Florida where we have months to work on this,” he said. “We have several weeks.”

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