Two Southeast communities are struggling to cope with the aftermath of a cold snap that hit the region with severe winter weather last week.
In Yakutat on Tuesday (1-11-22), Borough Manager Jon Erickson declared a local disaster emergency, citing the imminent threat of roof collapse caused by dangerous snow loads accumulating throughout the city. Erickson says that the borough has seen around six feet of snow over the last few weeks, causing intermittent power outages, damage to buildings, and school closures. The city normally keeps four snow shovelers on retainer, but Erickson says the team is too small to keep up with the accumulating snow.
“We’ve been shoveling off, but right now we just don’t have enough shovelers. So we contacted emergency management, and they’re probably going to be sending a team of 10 shovelers down here,” Erickson said.
One of the hardest hit structures has been the newly built $11 million Community Health Center, which Erickson says could cost millions to repair and is currently functioning only as an emergency facility.
“We closed the Community Health Center so we don’t have any outpatient service. All we have is emergency service and ambulance service. That’s really what’s kind of scary,” said Erickson.
According to a press release from the State Department of Military and Veteran Affairs issued late Tuesday, the Alaska National Guard is deploying service members and vehicles to Yakutat via military airlift to assist with emergency snow removal and building safety.
In the small Admiralty Island community of Angoon, freezing temperatures have taken a toll on the already-stressed water facility, causing village-wide water shortages. Tammy Helm works for the Department of Environmental Conservation. She says both the DEC and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are in the process of providing additional support to the community.
“They did discover that the generator was only putting out two of the three normal phases which caused the plant to shut down,” said Helm. “That issue was fixed by yesterday afternoon and the power was restored to normal. They were then able to start the water plant and start making water again by nine o’clock last night.”
Both DEC remote maintenance staff, an ANTHC utility engineer and a SEARHC electrician will be traveling to Angoon on Wednesday (1-12-22) to troubleshoot any damage which may have been done to the distribution facility during the freeze. Mayor Maxine Thompson says that the cost of the maintenance will be covered by the Angoon Community Association.