Alaska National Guard will help dig out Yakutat area

Some 20 Alaska National Guard members and multiple vehicles have been deployed to the city and borough of Yakutat via military airlift to provide emergency snow removal and building safety assessment for the community, due to tremendous amounts of snow and rain over the last week.

The response from the state’s Emergency Operation Center came on Tuesday, Jan. 11, after the local government submitted a declaration of local disaster emergency to the state and requested assistance.  Yakutat is an isolated community off the road system and all local available resources have been exhausted, state disaster emergency officials said.

There have been no reports of serious injury or deaths due to the weather.

Additional snow and rain are forecasted for the region, as well as increased avalanche danger in many areas, SEOC officials said.

Joint Task Force-Yakutat, comprised of guardsmen from the Air and Army National Guard is assigned two four-wheel drive vehicles to provide assistance in Yakutat.

The SEOC said they have received reports of snow and rain impacts including collapsed buildings, communities canceling schools, a Juneau grocery store closed for multiple days and numerous private and public buildings leaking due to excessive weight on rooftops.

Bryan Fisher, director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said that as Alaskans residents are accustomed to severe weather, but that this winter has been particularly challenging for many areas of the state.

“The state is standing by to help our local jurisdiction when a natural disaster is greater than their local response capabilities,” Fisher said. “Together with our non-government partners, we will ensure every community receives the emergency assistance they need.”

The SEOC is managed by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which falls within the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. They respond when local authorities determine that an emergency or disaster has caused more impact or damage than the community is able to deal with independently and requests assistance.