Five days ago, Alaska reached the one-hundred-day mark since the Yukon River broke in mid-May and swallowed its first riverside community.
For Alaskans, spring breakup is an annual event – a typical part of life for residents in the Last Frontier that signals a final meltdown before spring comes.
However, this year, late-winter snowstorms and cold temperatures delayed the breakup of ice cover on Alaska’s big rivers. Then, temperatures rapidly increased causing sheets of ice to melt and move rapidly downstream.
From May 17 to June 11, a series of ice jams, upstream overflow, flash flooding and ballistic ice along the Yukon and Koyukuk rivers caused massive flood damage to several Interior and Eastern Alaska communities.
Now, the recovery process is under way. Families are repairing their damaged homes, survivors are beginning to receive financial assistance for their flood-related losses, community service workers are helping with cleanup efforts and voluntary organizations are donating their time and skills to help flood survivors.
Below are 10 milestones reached in the 100 days of Alaska’s response and recovery:
The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $3.3 million in low-interest disaster loans for 45 homeowners, renters, business owners and some private nonprofits throughout the disaster area.
More than $2.6 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for individuals and families who were affected by Alaska’s spring floods.
In order to reduce future losses, more than $369,000 in federal mitigation assistance has been approved to harden infrastructure to make it better suited to environmental hazards. These funds have a projected future benefit of more than $1 million saved.
FEMA has now obligated more than $631,900 to help state, local and tribal communities recover costs for cleaning up debris and emergency measures to protect Alaskans before, during and after the spring floods.
200,674 pounds of building materials
FEMA has transported a total of 200,674 pounds of building materials, sheltering supplies and donated items to survivors in Galena on 44 shipments.
The feeding task force—made up of federal, state, local and tribal partners, as well as voluntary organizations—has prepared and served 8,060 meals to flood survivors.
4,931 pounds of pet food
About 4,931 pounds of donated cat and dog food has been distributed for pet survivors in the affected riverside communities.
The multi-denominational Galena Bible Church sent out 1,500 postcards explaining what help they needed. In response, 150 volunteers from across the nation came to Galena to help. Other volunteer organizations are also assisting with the recovery.
159 work orders requested
A total of 65 AmeriCorps members and staff have completed nearly 75% of the 159 homeowners requesting AmeriCorps assistance.
12 new jobs
FEMA has added 12 Alaskans to its workforce in Anchorage, working side by side with deployed disaster assistance specialists from all over the country. Local hires are invaluable assets that not only bring skill and experience, but cultural and geographic knowledge of the area.
Disaster communication and community engagement are important to the recovery process. Since the major disaster declaration, hundreds of survivors have been in touch with FEMA seeking help or information. Survivors have called FEMA’s helpline, some have made visits to Disaster Recovery Centers, and others have met Disaster Survivor Assistance specialists in their regions.
Disaster recovery has demanded that responders adapt to Alaska’s unique environment. Many of the villages affected by this spring’s flooding are so remote, recovery cannot be delivered via road-based means. Planning for barge delivery – only feasible during the warmer months – and air transport poses unique challenges, but responders are invested in rising to meet them. Most importantly, hard-hit communities continue to come together to discuss plans for the future and strategies for building back stronger and more resilient.