Disaster declaration will help Southeast towns buried by snow

JUNEAU (AP) — Parts of Southeast Alaska are receiving assistance from the state after getting up to six feet of snow.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Jan. 13 issued a disaster declaration for the Yakutat, Juneau, Haines and Skagway areas, his office said in a statement.

The declaration activates emergency response options and a disaster recovery program, including possibly financial help, for those affected by the storm.

For a four-day stretch ending Jan. 11, up to six feet of snow fell in parts of the disaster area. That was followed by warmer temperatures and rain, which disrupted power and damaged structures in Yakutat and Juneau.

Officials in Yakutat requested assistance from the Alaska National Guard to clear snow and ice from public, tribal and governmental facilities. A task force flew to Yakutat on Jan. 12 to assist local crews.

Yakutat’s newly completed health clinic was forced to close after four to five feet of heavy snow caused an estimated millions of dollars in water damage to the building and equipment, Borough Manager Jon Erickson told the Alaska Public Media radio network.

“It seems to be a roof failure,” Erickson said of the $11 million facility. “It’s because of ice and snow and snow load.”

“Numerous structures within the (Yakutat) borough have sustained, or are in imminent danger of sustaining, significant damage,” according to the governor’s disaster declaration.

A carport at Yakutat’s Public Safety Building collapsed into a trailer set up for emergency calls, and a broken pipe flooded the community’s Head Start building, according to the public radio report.

In Juneau, roofs collapsed on two commercial buildings — one in the Lemon Creek area and an empty warehouse downtown — under extreme snow loads. No one was injured. The borough on Jan. 11 advised residents to check their roofs for deep, heavy wet snow.

Juneau closed its public schools for three days last week, citing “hazardous road and sidewalk conditions.” Riverbend Elementary School in the Mendenhall Valley, however, suffered extensive water damage from frozen pipes and is closed indefinitely.

Klawock issued a water conservation notice after leaks and a blockage caused water tank levels to plummet. Repair efforts were hampered because the access road was “sheer ice” and required the city administrators to call for help on Facebook for residents with snowmachines, according to public radio reporting.


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