Murkowski Staffer Provides Details on “Human Side” of Western Alaska Storm
Findings: Golovin Highly Damaged, Preparedness Likely Saved Lives in Villages
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Lisa Murkowski today received information and images from staff member Bob Walsh upon his return from a three-day, 11 village tour of Western Alaska storm damage. Walsh, a Nome native, visited communities impacted by the violent weather system in early November – including Nome, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Kotzebue and Kivalina – and provided Murkowski pictures, anecdotes and experiences he heard from residents.
“The constant phone calls with officials and updates were helpful in keeping me apprised of the ‘science’ of the storm, but I needed to know the human side of it,” said Murkowski. “With his deep roots in Western Alaska, I trusted Bob to find out details in and around the Seward Peninsula.
According to Walsh, Golovin appears to be the most severely impacted with flooding surrounding homes during the storm’s surge. Just outside of Nome, some roads were damaged, and it appears the sea wall protecting the community of Unalakleet failed slightly. Kivalina’s rock wall did what it was designed to do: keep out flood waters. Although 135 people evacuated to the village school there as a precaution, no water damage was sustained.
“The rural sprit of helping each other and pulling together as a team was very apparent,” Walsh said. “The disaster response by the communities was very well coordinated, and that likely contributed to the positive outcome.”
Wendy Schaffer of the Northwest Arctic Borough worked with emergency coordinators in the communities preparing, alerting and organizing residents in the area. Senator Murkowski said it was that preparation on the local, state and federal levels that saved lives. More damage may exist, but communities must wait until the snow and ice melts in spring to do a complete evaluation.