Authorities on Monday were making contact with remote villages along Alaska’s western coast to determine the need for food and water and assess damage after a massive storm swamped the state’s coastline over the weekend.
Members of the Alaska National Guard and the American Red Cross were deployed to affected areas to determine the need for food, water, and shelter. The state identified five communities — Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Golovin, Newtok, and Nome — most impacted by the storm and flooding.
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced on Twitter Monday that he will request a Federal Disaster Declaration and federal assistance as soon as authorities “gather the necessary information.” If the requests are approved, at least 75% of eligible disaster costs will be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Dunleavy declared a state of disaster Saturday and the American Red Cross designated the storm as a Level 4 disaster, allowing the organization to fundraise directly for recovery efforts, according to Dunleavy.
“State emergency teams and staff from organizations such as the Red Cross of Alaska are being deployed today,” Dunleavy said in a tweet Monday. “All guardsmen and state defense forces in the entire western region are being activated.”
As of Sunday, three communities — Elim, Unalakleet, and Hooper Bay — had a boil advisory in effect. There have been no reports of injuries or deaths from the storm.
FIONA SLAMS PUERTO RICO:Hurricane overwhelms the island with flooding, mudslides, massive power loss
Expected freeze-up in coming weeks
About 21,000 residents living in small communities along the western Alaska coast were impacted by the storm.
As floodwaters receded, damages to homes, roads, and other infrastructure were revealed. Many homes were flooded or moved from their foundations by the rushing waters and strong winds.
The state transportation department said most airports in the area were open, and officials were making either temporary or permanent repairs to the runways that still have issues, according to Jeremy Zidek, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Zidek said state officials are also reaching out to every community in the region because of the numerous reports of damage.
“While the needs may be greater in some, we don’t want to neglect those other communities that have minor issues that still need to be resolved,” he said. However, efforts to reach some communities have been difficult due to downed communication lines.
The communities of Kotzebue and Kivalina were both still without power Monday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Kaitlyn Lardeo.
To address the aftermath of the storm, all members of the Alaska National Guard in the western region of the state were activated and the American Red Cross sent 50 volunteers to communities most in need.
The state’s emergency operations center is also fully staffed with military, state agencies, and volunteer organizations to help provide aid.
Recovery efforts are urgent as a freeze-up, or the start of winter is expected in about three weeks. Dunleavy declared to get communities up and running again as soon as possible during a news conference Sunday.
“We just have to impress upon our federal friends that it’s not a Florida situation where we’ve got months to work on this,” Dunleavy said during the conference. “We’ve got several weeks.”
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Where is the storm now?
Remnants of Typhoon Merbok caused the massive storm along Alaska’s 1,000-mile stretch of the western coastline, where strong winds and high water surges flooded the sparsely populated region.
AccuWeather called the former typhoon “one of the most intense storms” to impact the state in recent history after it transitioned from a tropical cyclone to a powerful, non-tropical wind and rainstorm.
The surge of water from the Bering Sea came on Friday bringing significant coastal flooding and wind gusts that could reach hurricane strength, according to the Weather Service.
By Sunday, Dunleavy said the storm settled over the Chukchi Sea. The storm remained stalled Monday near northwest Alaska as it weakened after its most powerful stage.
Coastal flood warnings were extended until Monday for an area north of the Bering Strait since water will be slow to recede in towns like Kotzebue, Kivalina, and Shishmaref, Lardeo told the Associated Press.
Contributing: The Associated Press