National Guard Hard at Work in Snow-Massed Cordova
CBS 11's crew is on the scene
CORDOVA, ALASKA - The Alaska National Guard got right to work when front-end loaders and ice-cutters arrived in Cordova on the 11 p.m. ferry Sunday night. There is no road to the small Prince William Sound fishing village that has been inundated with 56 inches of snow since January 1, 2012. The weight has caused roofs to collapse and boats in the harbor are in danger of capsizing. That caused the mayor to declare a city emergency on Friday. Cordova is equipped to deal with snow, but not this much. Snow accumulation records have been set already this year in the Prince William Sound region.
*EDITOR'S NOTE* It had been incorrectly reported that 18 feet of snow had fallen in Cordova during the recent weeks prior to the publishing of this article. Eighteen feet of precipitation had fallen between November 1, 2011 and when this article was originally published.
The National Guard mission is two-fold. First, widen the snow-socked roads so more equipment and people can move in to relieve the pressure. Second, the city created a priority list of municipal-owned buildings it believes are in imminent danger of having the ceilings cave in. The majority of the fifty Guard members will concentrate on clearing the roofs of the hospital, high school, water treatment facility and the city pool. After those are declared safe, Guard members will deploy into neighborhoods to help residents save their houses.
The Alaska National Guard is operating in Cordova under the direction of the City of Cordova's Emergency Management Team. The state's Division of Homeland Security requested the Guard deploy on behalf of the city. Four to ten more inches of snow are expected today and this evening. Drifting snow could add another one or two feet. A blizzard watch is in effect from Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon. High winds can pile snow to dangerous levels in the steep mountains surrounding Cordova, which in turn increases the likelihood of avalanches which roar down the slopes and could bury buildings and roads.
The Copper River Highway connects Cordova to the airport. It was closed for much of the weekend because officials were waiting for an avalanche to come down. It finally did on Sunday with no injuries or damage to property. Currently the highway is open and flights are on schedule. The Cordova ski area at Mt. Eyak currently has too much snow to be open.
KTVA CBS 11 has had reporter Heather Hintze and photojournalist John Thain in Cordova since Saturday afternoon. They will continue to update Alaska all day today and tonight on the evening news. Stay with us at ktva.com, on Twitter @KTVA, at facebook.com/alaskatvktva and on TV Channel 11 at 5, 6 and 10 for the latest information, images and sound from Cordova.