ANCHORAGE, Alaska — There was extensive damage to some roads and homes in parts of western Alaska following last weekend’s devastating coastal storm, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said Wednesday after visiting some communities on Wednesday. along the state’s vast coastline.
“For the most part people are recovering and digging in,” he told a news conference.
No injuries or deaths were reported after the storm, the remnant of Typhoon Merbok, moved north through the Bering Strait. It brought tidal surges and strong winds that ripped through the main streets of several communities and pushed homes off the foundations in what has been described as the worst storm in half a century.
About 21,000 people living along a 1,000 mile (1,609 kilometer) stretch of Alaska’s west coast – a distance longer than the California coast – were affected by the storm.
Among the hardest hit communities was Nome, famous for being the finish line of the Iditarod Trail sled dog race every March.
Ryan Anderson, chief of the state Department of Transportation, said many repairs were needed, including repairing torn pavement on the city’s main street and clearing debris from the storm.
A highway that connects Nome to the small community of Council, about 113 kilometers away, was also heavily damaged. Up to 10 miles (16 kilometers) of this road was totally wiped out, he said, with heavy damage to about another 10 miles (16 kilometers more).
Two bridges on the road are in good condition, but the approaches therefore the bridges have been damaged.
The state has already contacted contractors in Nome to begin street and road repair work, and engineers are in place. “This work is done immediately,” he said.
They work with contractors to repair damage in other communities. A plane for surveyors waits for the best weather in Nome to fly.
“We’re going to map this whole area along Norton Sound to make sure we’re documenting this damage and moving forward to repair it,” he said.
In the community of Elim, its main street was completely destroyed and about 3 miles (5 kilometers) of road was washed away in the community of Golovin.
Most of the damage in Golovin occurred on a spit, where houses were hit by waves and toppled from their foundations. Large shipping containers were strewn up to 2 miles (3 kilometers) across the bay, Dunleavy said.
There are few roads in western Alaska and none connect to the state’s contiguous highway system, leaving communities dependent on air transportation. Anderson said the airports weathered the storm well.
“All West Coast airports are operational and as of today all of our lighting systems are working,” he said.
Dunleavy said it was too early to determine the cost of all the repairs, but he expected to get estimates for roads and airports within days.
State Emergency Management Director Bryan Fisher said the state is awaiting word on whether its request for a federal disaster declaration to provide additional resources, personnel and financial support will be approved.
Dunleavy approved a state disaster declaration on Saturday. Fisher said they are focused on getting supplies like plywood, insulation and tin to fix the roofs “to make sure we can close the houses and make sure the residents have a place. safe and warm before winter arrives”.
About 130 members of the Alaska National Guard and other military organizations were activated to help remove debris and clean up after the storm, and to speak to residents.
“We want to go out with compassion and talk to people and make sure we’re taking care of their needs,” said Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, state adjutant general and commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Dunleavy said he plans to visit those communities again early next month to see progress.