The City and Borough of Yakutat in Alaska, U.S. has declared a local disaster emergency on January 11, 2022, after accumulating approximately 1.5 – 1.8 m (5 – 6 feet) of snow over the last several weeks. Yakutat is isolated and off the road system, and all local available resources had been exhausted.
The Borough is now experiencing rain conditions, with near-freezing temperatures, causing snow loads to become even heavier, Borough Manager Jon Erickson said in the Declaration of Local Disaster Emergency.1
As a result, numerous structures within the Borough have sustained, or are in imminent danger of sustaining, significant damage.
The new Yakutat Clinic Health Center was forced to close and likely has millions of dollars of water damage.
The Yakutat Schools snow loads are threatening to collapse the roofs of the Gym and Elementary School, despite extensive snow removal efforts.
Borough-owned fish plant, the only fish plant in the Borough, has snow loads at a dangerous level and the municipal water and sewer plant roofs are now dangerously overloaded.
The privately-owned hardware store and grocery stores have worrisome snow loads, as do numerous private lodges and residences.
There have been repeated, intermittent power outages, with loss of municipal telephone and internet.
Several older structures have already collapsed, including a carport at the municipal public safety building, which collapsed onto the Borough's emergency management trailer.
This ongoing situation poses an imminent threat to health, safety and welfare of the residents, businesses, and infrastructure of the Borough, Erickson said, adding that the available personnel and resources are currently inadequate to handle the consequences of this current weather event.
To help with the cleaning of tremendous amounts of snow and rain over the last 7 days, 20 Alaska National Guard Soldiers and Airmen headed toward the community via military airplane on January 12.2
Guard members are now performing building safety assessments and emergency snow removal for Tribal, public and government facilities.
Other Southeast communities are also struggling to cope with the aftermath of a cold snap that hit the region with severe winter weather last week.3
In Juneau, heavy snow gave way to rain on Monday, January 10, closing schools, state offices and the community's largest grocery store. The roofs of two buildings failed on Tuesday due to heavy snow loads.
In the small Admiralty Island community of Angoon, freezing temperatures have taken a toll on the already-stressed water facility, causing village-wide water shortages.
1 Declaration of Local Disaster Emergency – The City and Borough of Yakutat
2 Alaska National Guard provides emergency assistance to Yakutat – ANG
3 Yakutat declares disaster emergency, citing an imminent threat of roofs collapsing – Alaska Public Media
Featured image credit: U.S. Army National Guard/Dana Rosso
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