Alaska delegates respond to devastating Western Alaska storm

Gov. Dunleavy formally submitted a request for federal help Tuesday
Alaska delegates respond to storms hitting western coast
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 8:29 AM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:48 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The historic storm that hit the western part of the state over the weekend left many Alaska lawmakers and delegates working to respond to the calamity.

Included in the push for federal assistance is newly-elected Rep. Mary Peltola, who emphasized the severe conditions seen along the coast.

“This storm is the strongest September storm that we’ve seen in the last 70 years, and there were storm surges recorded at eight — almost nine feet — in Nome on Norton Sound,” Peltola said Monday.

At the same time, the state is working on its own response. Gov. Mike Dunleavy traveled to Western Alaska on Monday to survey the damage himself.

On Tuesday evening, the state said a formal request for a federal disaster declaration has been submitted by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The letter from the governor, sent to President Joe Biden via the regional administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, points to severe damages sustained down about 1,300 miles of coastline along the west and northwest regions of Alaska. The request also asks the federal government to consider adjusting its coverage in this case, as costs of repairs, the state said, would otherwise be widely prohibitive, particularly when the only viable option for delivering new supplies and other resources is by air.

“Today is, again, as far as devastation that could have happened, that some had anticipated — there was water invasion, certainly some erosion, some airports had debris on them,” Dunleavy said.

Over the weekend, the governor shared that the state was preparing a federal disaster declaration request. In a press release Monday, Dunleavy said at least 75% of eligible disaster costs would be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with the state picking up the remaining costs.

Peltola gave insight into some of the relief Alaskans might be getting.

“An allowance of two vehicles, up to $18,950 dollars that can be recouped, or can go towards the purchase of new vehicles, and it would be one summer vehicle and one winter vehicle,” she said.

In the meantime, several organizations are responding to help, including the American Red Cross of Alaska, which is working closely with the state to help assist people in need. Initially, the Red Cross says it will use Nome and Bethel as response hubs.

From there, the organization will travel to different communities to learn more about the needs of those impacted.

“We’re going to both Bethel and Nome, and these two teams will be our initial boots on the ground,” Red Cross spokesperson Taylar Sausen said. “They’re going to be working with the state to travel to the different communities that are impacted by this storm. They’re going to be doing damage assessment, case management and then also planning for what other assets are needed in those communities.”

With winter looming, the Red Cross of Alaska says it is ready to help these communities in any way that they need.