Gov. Declares State Disaster for Communities
November 16, 2013, Anchorage, Alaska – After surveying the extent of severe storm damage in western Alaska, and meeting with residents and community leaders today, Governor Sean Parnell made a verbal declaration of a state disaster for the affected communities in the Bering Straits Regional Education Attendance Area (REAA), Lower Yukon REAA, and Lower Kuskokwim REAA.
Forecast on November 5, and making landfall on November 9, a series of four storms battered hundreds of miles of Alaska’s west coast with near hurricane force winds, strong sea surges, freezing rain, and snow.
Governor Parnell and Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, traveled to Unalakleet and Kotlik. The governor and general held a townhall meeting in Kotlik to listen to the concerns of residents there. Those concerns focused on the well-being of the elders, water/sewer issues, and lost food stores.
“The State of Alaska will continue to provide all available assets to assist those impacted by the brutal storms that have caused considerable damage,” Governor Parnell said. “Ensuring residents are safe and repairing infrastructure remain my top priorities.”
State Emergency Management teams were deployed to assist with emergency response and initial recovery to get community infrastructure back into working condition.
"The communities that suffered the impact of these storms have done a tremendous job and deserve a lot of credit," Maj. Gen. Katkus said. "The state emergency operations center was staffed and operational during the entire event, and coordinated proactive measures to minimize damages, and protect community infrastructure."
By declaring a disaster, Governor Parnell opens access to grant funding from the Disaster Relief Fund to repair and restore public infrastructure, and some individual homes. The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will work with community leaders to formally assess damages and identify eligible applicants.
The State of Alaska has a number of agencies assisting in the recovery process, including the Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Health and Social Services, and the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Association of Village Council Presidents are actively working to meet residents’ needs, and the state emergency operations center has coordinated volunteer groups, including the American Red Cross of Alaska, which is on the ground in Kotlik, as well as Faith Christian Community Church in Anchorage, and Samaritan’s Purse.