Alaska Gov. Issues Disaster Declaration Following Sea Storms That Hit Several Areas

November 9, 2004

Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski recently issued a state disaster declaration for the Northwest Arctic Borough, the Bering Strait REAA and the village of Mekoryuk in response to sea storms that have caused widespread damage.

“The devastation visited on families in these regions is extensive and, unfortunately, ongoing. I’m directing my administration to dedicate all available resources to assisting these communities,” the Governor said.

Murkowski was to appeal to President Bush to declare a federal disaster in the affected areas so that the Federal Emergency Management Agency can offer additional assistance.

The announcement was made while the Governor was touring storm damage in Nome, which had declared a local disaster on Oct. 19. Damage in Nome has been estimated at $5.4 million and includes severe power outages, multiple propane leaks, road damage and damage to several structures. The governor visited Kotzebue earlier in the week.

The Bering Strait Regional Education Attendance Area includes the communities of Shishmaref, Diomede, Wales, Brevig Mission, Nome, Elim, Koyuk, Shaktoolik, Unalakleet, Stebbins, St. Michaels and St. Lawrence Island.

Villages along the Bering Sea and Norton Sound areas, which are in the Bering Strait REAA, have experienced coastal flooding, high winds and tidal surge. A teacher’s housing tri-plex in Shishmaref was hanging over the bluff face and the community had lost up to 52 feet of shoreline during the storms.

The Northwest Arctic Borough is comprised of 11 villages in and around the Kotzebue Sound area. The villages are Ambler, Buckland, Deering, Kiana, Kivalina, Kobuk, Kotzebue, Noatak, Noorvik, Selawik and Shungnak.

The Northwest Arctic Borough declared a local disaster and requested state assistance based on damages in Kivalina and Kotzebue. Damages to other areas are still being tallied.

A powerful fall sea storm moved from the Southern Bering Sea into the Bering Strait on Monday, Oct. 18, causing high winds, wind-driven tidal surges and flooding. The storms were ongoing and state disaster officials were working with communities outside the two affected regions to collect information on damages. Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska National Guard were helping with emergency life safety measures.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management contacted more than 35 communities in the Norton Sound area and portions of the Lower Yukon REAA and the Lower Kuskokwim REAA to assess storm damages.

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