Clean Up Begins in Northwest Alaska
Advanced warning and preparation helped communities dodge a bullet.
State officials say the worst has passed when it comes to a huge storm in the Bering Sea, although clean up could continue for weeks. Many communities reported some flooding and damage from the storm but none have declared a local emergency or asked for assistance from the state.
“If you are asking me if we dodged a bullet, I think we got lucky in certain respects,” says Homeland Security Deputy Director Michael O’Hare.
O’Hare says the fact that communities got the message about the approaching storm more than a day ahead of time was key in helping things go as smoothly as possible. He also points to the fact that communities have received training for these types of events and know what to do.
“Most of the flooding was in the low land areas,” says O’Hare. “The communities got to shelter and higher ground and did exactly as they should.”
Tidal surges from the storm were reported at their highest point for communities in Norton Sound on Wednesday night. Meteorologists say in some cases the surge was more than seven feet above the normal tide. That too was expected.
“Water levels were pretty much what we expected,” says National Weather Service Forecaster Don Moore. “The computer models that we used for guidance were pretty good with this storm. I think they may have underdone a little bit, but over all, I think we are pretty pleased with the output they provided us.”
Officials with the State Emergency Operations center say it’s too soon to wind down their efforts or put a price tag on damages since reports are still coming in. The office will stay manned 24/7 at least for the next few days. Officials say they have crews on standby ready to fly to any community that asks for state assistance.