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Success Stories: State, FEMA and Volunteers Work Together to Help Re-Build Eagle

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Release date: 
August 11, 2009
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When the Yukon River ice breakup happened this spring, it caused devastating flooding in the town of Eagle, Alaska, beginning May 4. A large ice jam developed about 10 miles downriver of Eagle, causing the high-flowing Yukon, fueled by snowmelt from high temperatures during the previous week, to flood the town. House-sized chunks of ice were carried over the town's riverbank retaining wall and smashed into stores and buildings.

Eagle is a community made up of two settlements: Eagle and the Alaska Native settlement of Eagle Village. Both were seriously impacted. Eagle Village was virtually destroyed by marauding blocks of ice, while in the nearby town of Eagle many homes near the river were severely damaged.

Plans had been in the works for several years to move Eagle Village to a safer location, and several families had already built homes at the new site. After the flood this spring, residents still living in the old village were forced to make the move, as well.

Don and Judy Mann loved their house in the old village. It was a two-story log house in the middle of the village, close to the heart of their community. After the ice shoved the house 300 feet off its foundation, the frame splintered and broke (see Figure 1). It clearly could not be rebuilt.

Fortunately for the Manns and other residents of Eagle who suffered damages, help has arrived from many sources. Initially, the State declared the flooding a disaster on May 6 and began sending supplies such as potable water to stricken communities and helping restore access to flood affected areas.

President Obama declared the Yukon River flooding part of a national disaster on June 11, making residents eligible for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Due to the cost and difficulty of bringing in building supplies, FEMA gave residents the option of receiving their assistance directly, in the form of materials, rather than cash. While the Manns chose to receive cash and do their own re-building, many people gratefully accepted the building supplies.

To streamline building efforts and keep costs low for those residents who opted to receive cash the homeowners ordered kit homes in the same basic design, which facilitates quicker assembly. FEMA is providing free gravel for all of the foundations, and is paying to ship all of the logs and materials.

At the same time, the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) offered to provide free labor to build the new homes. MDS agreed to build 13 new log homes, six in Eagle and seven in Eagle Village. The homes in Eagle are being rebuilt on their original sites, but are being elevated several feet. The homes in Eagle Village are being built in the new village, which is at a higher elevation.

The first resident of the new Eagle Village to have the foundation and exterior of her new home completed was Rebecca Malcolm, the second chief of Eagle (Figure 2). She and her brother, Mark, both will have homes in the new village. Figure 3 shows Rebecca and Mark in Rebecca's newly completed home.

The first Mennonite team arrived on July 14. MDS teams will be working in two-week rotations until all 13 homes are completed, which is expected to be in mid-September.

Also pitching in to help re-build Eagle is the volunteer organization Samaritan's Purse. This group has pledged to provide $10,000 worth of building materials for every one of the 13 homes in Eagle. This will cover plumbing, electricity, heating, fixtures, cabinets, and all the things necessary to transform the completed dry shell into a home.

In addition, Samaritan's Purse is contributing logistical support. They have supplied tools and other equipment to the effort, as well as providing a flight every week to bring in supplies. Teams of volunteers from Samaritan's Purse are also joining the Mennonites to work on the houses.

The outpouring of help from Alaska Volunteer...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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