In western Alaska, people in Savoonga are rebuilding after a severe winter storm damaged several homes on New Year’s Eve. The mayor issued a local disaster declaration and is asking for state assistance.


The storm brought in winds over 60 mph for several hours, including a peak gust of 81 mph. Those hurricane-force winds took a toll on the homes and buildings of Savoonga.


Two representatives of the American Red Cross of Alaska and two emergency managers from the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management went house by house over the course of four days, assessing the damage and talking with residents to hear what they needed most.


The biggest need, they found, was building supplies.


The team categorized one home as destroyed and 22 with major damage, meaning the homes are not safe to live in and will take a large financial investment to repair.


Typically those residents would be displaced, but that’s not the case in Savoonga.


“In a different community, one that’s not quite so remote, they would probably have to find a different place to be, but in Savoonga, there’s no where else to be, so you make do with what you have and they’re very hearty out there and it sounds like they’re in good spirits,” said Celia Jackson, senior disaster program manager for the Red Cross of Alaska “They’re very resourceful, so when there’s a lot of repairs that need to be made that we won’t get supplies in fast enough for, I think people are really pulling together and helping each other out and making some of those repairs early.”


The Red Cross was able to provide temporary financial assistance to those residents. In all, 127 people received help, nearly 20 percent of the population of Savoonga.


“It sounds like the community is very positive and hopeful and supporting each other, making sure their neighbors are safe and have a place to stay, even if it’s not at the school, it’s at a friends house,” Jackson said.


Although the Red Cross was able to provide some temporary help, to receive more substantial state assistance, the governor’s office will have to approve the damage assessment and issue its own emergency disaster declaration. Federal assistance could also be requested if the damage is severe enough.


The Red Cross says it always need volunteers, especially with another winter storm headed that way later this week. You can also donate to the Red Cross of Alaska and the money will be used locally.


KTVA 11’s Melissa Frey can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.


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