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Gov. Dunleavy visits Norton Sound to assess storm damage

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaking at the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska (2019). Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO, used with permission.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy was in Nome yesterday, Sept. 21, to assess the damage caused by a historic September storm that affected hundreds of miles of Western Alaska coastline and dozens of communities.

During his visit to the Norton Sound region, Dunleavy was able to spend time in Golovin, Elim and briefly touch down in Koyuk. There is no substitute for being here on the ground and seeing the storm impacts with his own eyes, Dunleavy said.

“You really have to come out here to see it. And what I mean by that is, you can get reports but the reports always seem to fall short of what really happened, of the details that you need to have to make sure things get put back together. So that’s why we brought out, once again, General Saxe with the National Guard, he oversees our emergencies; as well as Ryan Anderson, our Department of Transportation Commissioner, because it’s a lot of road work, a lot of erosion,” Dunleavy said.

Based on the State of Alaska’s assessment, the five communities that were hit the hardest from the recent storm were Golovin, Hooper Bay, Newtok, Nome and Scammon Bay. The Governor was able to visit all of them over the past few days and noted that Golovin’s damage stood out to him.

“There’s a pretty flat spit there as well as a hill where homes are located. That spit got hit pretty hard. We saw a lot of devastation there. A lot of high water, teacher housing, other housing, buildings and connexes that have been blown across the inlet, quite some distance and that are now located on the other side of the inlet,” Dunleavy said.

Gov. Dunleavy returned to Anchorage on the evening of Sept. 21 as the current fall storm prevented him from flying on to Shaktoolik as planned.

Weather continues to be a factor in the recovery process for Western Alaska, not only today but in the coming weeks. There is a limited window of time for recovery as freeze-up is fast approaching, Dunleavy said.

“You got to move fast. We can’t let bureaucracy stand in the way, because every day is a day for some folks in a wet house. Every day is a day in which their house is off its foundation or they can’t get to where their boats are because their roads are gone,” Dunleavy said.

On Sept. 20, Gov. Dunleavy sent a request to the federal government asking for financial assistance through grant programs, and for 100% federal share in cost. It is unclear if or when President Joe Biden will issue a major disaster declaration to assist Western Alaska since simultaneously Puerto Rico is asking for help to recover from Hurricane Fiona.

Photo at the top: Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaking at the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska (2019). Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO, used with permission.

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