As Western Alaska storm weakens and floodwater recede, damage assessments begin across hundreds of miles of coastline

The remnants of a massive Pacific typhoon that slammed a thousand miles of western Alaska ravaged Sunday morning, with floodwaters receding and communities assessing damage from one of the worst storms on record.

“The climax is over,” National Weather Service meteorologist Caitlin Lardio said on Sunday. “It’s a weak system.”

The storm left a trail of debris in coastal Alaska with flooding, loss of telecommunications, and damage to buildings and infrastructure, including roads, docks, sea walls and village runways.

Governor Mike Dunleavy said as of Sunday evening, there were no reports of deaths, serious injuries or people missing.

The storm system was moving north, where it is expected to halt and rapidly weaken over the Chukchi Sea.

flood in kotjebu

Weather Service meteorologist Jonathan Christ said during Sunday’s video update that the storm is expected to persist for the next few days. As a result, “the water level in this area is going to be slow to fall,” he said.

He said, “The good news with the system being prolonged is that we are no longer expecting widespread, or really any, impact with respect to coastal flooding from Point Lay to Wainwright to Utkiasvik. ,” They said. “The water is not expected to be high enough to cause an effect at this time.”

[Alaska Community Foundation creates fund to accept donations for storm-ravaged Western Alaska]

The weather system is one that is left over from Typhoon Merbok, which forms eastward in the Pacific Ocean, where such storms are usually seen.

Parts of Kotzebue were flooded late Saturday and early Sunday morning, with residents of some low-lying areas of the city taking shelter elsewhere overnight. As of Sunday afternoon, there were no reports of evacuations in Kivalina and Deering, and “no other community in the Northwest Arctic Borough has reported any major impacts,” said Tessa Baldwin, director of public safety at the Northwest Arctic Borough Department of Public Safety. Told. ,

flood in kotjebu

To the south, water levels dropped throughout Sunday in communities at the mouth of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, Norton Sound and the Seward Peninsula.

“He has passed his climax for this event,” Lardio said.

Western Alaska Hurricane Zone

As the worst wind and flooding subsided, the state emergency operations center was assessing damage, collecting reports of battered infrastructure and property from communities up and down the Bering Sea coast.

Five communities are known to be “severely damaged” according to Dunleavy: Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Nome, Newtok and Golovin.

Hopper Bay Western Alaska Hurricane Flood
Hopper Bay Western Alaska Hurricane Flood

“We are going to move forward as fast as we can, and we will focus on the communities that have been really harmed and really need the most help,” Dunleavy said. “But all committees will be reviewed, and wherever help is needed, we will get that help as quickly as possible.”

Even the communities which were not the worst affected are facing major problems in the days to come. Unalakleet, Elim, Hooper Bay and Golovin are facing water problems. According to public radio station KYUK, hundreds of people took refuge at the school in Hopper Bay over the weekend, including residents of nearby Kotlik. As KYUK and Alaska Public Media report, most of the fishing boats in Chewak are gone.

“There are a lot of influences across the region. We understand that there has been damage to homes, damage to infrastructure in many communities and the recovery process is going to be extensive,” said Jeremy Zideck, a spokesman for the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

[Whipped by winds from storm, popular Nome restaurant destroyed in a Saturday fire]

Telecom effect

One of the issues facing the state’s emergency responders is that telecommunications coverage in some communities was inconsistent throughout Sunday, dropping out due to infrastructure impacts or damage to local power sources.

“Has communication been affected? Yes,” Zidek said. “What is the power effect? ​​Yes. To what degree? This is really a changing and evolving situation.”

GCI, which provides phone and Internet service to several affected communities, said its headquarters in Anchorage was working with local technicians in western Alaska to monitor system outages.

GCI spokeswoman Heather Handyside said: “Our current assessment indicates that consumer network services in Chevak, Allim, Golovin, Hopper Bay, Newtok, White Mountain, Shaktulik, Stebbins, St. George, Unlachleet are affected.” “Internet was down for some time, but has been restored in Imonac, Grealing and Quigilingok.”

[Earlier coverage: Worst storm in years batters Western Alaska coast]

“Some consumer power cuts and flooding are likely to affect home Internet devices,” he said, adding that as storm conditions ease, “GCI teams will dispatch resources and equipment while staging prioritizing the needs of

infrastructure damaged

As of Sunday afternoon, state officials said they believe all runways at airports in the region are operational. Several runways were reportedly submerged on Saturday and could not accept aircraft.

anette piscoya, nome, storm

According to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy, crews from heavy equipment operators managed to clear debris from runways in much of the area on Sunday morning. He said some communities have seen damage to lights along airstrips due to flooding.

Melanie Banke, head of Nome-based regional non-profit Kawerk, said information was still coming from the 15 Bering Strait communities serving Phnom. It is believed that three houses have gone to Golovin so far. According to Banke, the sanitation road used to empty buckets of garbage and honey from Shishmaref “has been erased.” Other communities reported flooding and residents took shelter on Saturday night.

Along the roads outside of Phme, people are searching for their family cabins and fish camps destroyed or destroyed. Behnke said her husband checked into their cabin outside Cape Nome late Saturday night.

“My smoke house is gone, my outhouse is gone. The picnic table and a canoe are gone,” she said. Winds had changed direction overnight and she was unsure whether the main structure made it. Others have lost their cabins.”

Large parts of the eastern side of Nome’s Front Street were shredded by their asphalt paving and were severely destroyed.

Alaska Airlines was able to fly a commercial plane to Nome on Sunday morning. According to Alaska Airlines regional vice president Marilyn Romano, the jet service was unable to reach Bethel or Kotzebue.

Sarkar Dunlavy released the state disaster declaration on Saturday.

Major General Torrence Saxe, chief of the Alaska National Guard, said on Sunday that all Guards and members of the State Defense Force in the Western Sector have been activated. More air support headed to western Alaska: three Guards helicopters at Nome and one at Bethel, as well as a C-17 and a C-130, both large military cargo aircraft, are on standby.

“It is important to have shoes on the ground. That’s why we want to start it from today itself.

He said the goal is to get 10 guardsmen to Hopper Bay, where guards sent to Bethel and Nome, as well as hundreds of meals are being provided to shelter residents.

The governor said the state is mobilizing resources to bring food, water and other essential supplies to the affected communities, starting Monday. He reiterated that a rapid “freeze up” is expected in western Alaska within a few weeks, meaning the recovery process will need to begin and end quickly.

Brian Fisher, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said state officials, including a state emergency manager, would be deployed to western Alaska on Monday. They will be joined by members of the American Red Cross from the lower 48 who will fly over the area to assess where food, water and shelter are needed.

Behnke said she was speaking with a congressional delegation Sunday in hopes of receiving a federal disaster declaration.

“Tribes could do it directly with FEMA, but that requires a 20 percent local match, which is not possible,” Banke said. He expects the state to request federal emergency managers.

Although Dunleavy has not yet asked for a federal disaster declaration, the state expects to do so within the next few days.

“We’re going to work with them,” Fisher said, “and it’s really a backstop, provided the governor’s disaster program, (which has been activated since Saturday morning), essentially advances.” Will provide cash. Do this response.”

“If it is approved by the president, there will be additional financial resources that will be borne for the long term,” Fischer said.

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