Guard helps Cordovans cope with snow; shovels in short supply

SPC. BALINDA O'NEAL / Alaska National Guard

Dozens of National Guard members are helping the fishing town of Cordova dig out from mountains of snow that collapsed roofs, triggered avalanches and trapped some people in homes.

By one count, more than 10 feet of snow has fallen in the town of 2,000 in the last few weeks.

With high winds, more snow and possibly rain in the forecast, responders and local volunteers Monday were trying to shovel out buildings considered most at risk - and putting out a request for more sturdy snow shovels and scoops.

City spokesman Allen Marquette said if any state should have stockpiles of shovels, it should be Alaska. But the city has contacted stores in Anchorage, Fairbanks and other cities and has not been able to find a stash, so it's working with a manufacturer to bring shovels north from another state, he said.

This winter, almost 15 feet of snow has fallen on Cordova, with a series of bursts that ended with a rain drenching over the weekend that added substantial weight to the snow and slicked the landscape.

The town issued a disaster declaration Friday, prompting the National Guard to send more than 70 troops Sunday. Heavy equipment, including a snow-melting machine, also arrived Sunday to supplement local resources.

"It's just been relentless, just nonstop," city spokesman Allen Marquette said Monday. "This year is just accumulating."

Some roofs have collapsed or partially caved-in under the wet snow that's at least six feet high on some buildings. So far, no injuries have been reported.

At the Coho Cafe restaurant and bar, the roof of a back shed caved in when snow from the restaurant's pitched roof slid off and hit it Saturday evening. The restaurant wasn't open and no one was hurt.

Kara White, a waitress and bartender, heard the surreal roar of the collapse. "There's no description for it," she said during a break from shoveling.

At the First National Bank branch, workers arrived Monday to find an interior wall had buckled.

Bank spokeswoman Cheri Gillian said the steel-frame building is considered structurally sound, but the bank will remain closed - possibly operating out of a nearby church - until someone can inspect it.

Associated Press