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With dwellings uninhabitable, Galena residents wait to go home

Kyle Hopkins
Jon Korta rips up his hardwood floor Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
Sam Harrel
Iditarod musher Jon Korta's dog yard remains full of water Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. With water as high as his window sills, Korta spent two days in his 24-foot boat tied to his house along with his wife, son and 12 sled dogs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
John Korta's car dries out on Monday, June 3, 2013 in Galena, Alaska. The car had been under water after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
This June 2, 2013 photo shows Louden Loop in Galena, Alaska, after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service A Galena resident and his dogs were trapped in the boat for over two days. May 29, 2013. Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsPhoto by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Alaska Air National Guardsmen Staff Sgt. Colton Nelson (left), a loadmaster with the 144th Airlift Squadron, and Master Sgt. Brandon Stuemke, a pararescueman with the 212th Rescue Squadron, escort residents of Galena, Alaska to an awaiting C-130 “Hercules” to be transported to Fairbanks, May 28. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsThe Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard help residents of Galena, Alaska into a C-130 “Hercules” during an evacuation of the town, May 28. Galena flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Residents of the town were transported to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. The Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Paul Apfelbeck Galena resident Paul Apfelbeck and other residents flew to Fairbanks via an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Tuesday, May 28, 2013.
Paul Apfelbeck
David Lee Galena is seeing major flooding caused by ice damming on the Yukon River. David Lee took these photos May 27, 2013 between 8AM and 9AM.
David Lee
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at left of photograph.
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Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Monday, May 20, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at top of photograph.
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Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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Aerial view of Yukon RIver near Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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Satellite image of the Yukon River on May 19, 2013.
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Photo courtesy National Weather Service Yukon River ice rests near a cabin in Circle during flooding on May 21, 2013.
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Yukon River ice near Stevens Village on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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A structure damaged by Yukon River ice during the flooding in Circle on May 21, 2013.
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Sam Nathaniel climbs over a log following his neighbor Gary Bessette as they climb over blocks of Yukon River ice Monday, May 20, 2013, at Circle. An ice jam Sunday morning caused the river to rise rapidly flooding the village 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks. Bessette, behind Nathaniel, had spend the night with his canoe after evacuating his home as it flooded.
Sam Harrel
A dozer pushes Yukon River ice out of the way as crews look for Circle's fresh water well Monday, May 20, 2013. The well needs to be tested after an ice jam Sunday morning caused the river to rise rapidly flooding the village 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks.
Sam Harrel
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses in Eagle have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Photo by Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses in Eagle have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Photo by Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses in Eagle have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Photo by Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Ed Christensen
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Pat Sanders
The Yukon River began breaking up early Friday morning, May 17, 2013. Several houses have been damaged or destroyed by moving ice.
Pat Sanders
Ice from the Yukon River melts in the yard of Paul Nathaniel on Monday morning, May 20, 2013, at Circle. An ice jam Sunday morning caused the river to rise rapidly flooding the village 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks. According to Nathaniel's brother, Sam Nathaniel, the cabin was located to the left of the van before the ice pushed it off it's foundation.
Sam Harrel
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
ANDREW NEASON / Alaska State Troopers Water rose rapidly five to eight feet Sunday morning May 19, 2013 in Circle, Alaska, reaching or flooding the majority of structures in town.
ANDREW NEASON
Photo by Scott Lindsey, National Weather Service Aerial photo of Yukon River flooding at Circle on Sunday morning, May 19, 2013.
Scott Lindsey
Photo by Scott Lindsey, National Weather Service Aerial photo of Yukon River flooding at Circle on Sunday morning, May 19, 2013.
Scott Lindsey
Yukon River at Eagle, Alaska on May 16, 2013.
John Borg
Yukon River flooding at Eagle City, Alaska on May 17, 2013.
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Yukon River flooding at Eagle, Alaska on May 17, 2013.
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Yukon River ice at mouth of the Fortymile River on May 18, 2013.
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Yukon RIver ice damage at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
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Yukon River flooding at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
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Yukon RIver near Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
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Yukon River flooding at Eagle, Alaska on May 17, 2013.
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Yukon RIver ice at Eagle, Alaska on May 19, 2013.
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Yukon RIver ice at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
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Yukon River ice at Eagle, Alaska on May 18, 2013.
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Jon Korta rips up his hardwood floor Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
Sam Harrel
Iditarod musher Jon Korta's dog yard remains full of water Monday, June 3, 2013, after the Yukon River flooded Galena, Alaska last week. With water as high as his window sills, Korta spent two days in his 24-foot boat tied to his house along with his wife, son and 12 sled dogs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
John Korta's car dries out on Monday, June 3, 2013 in Galena, Alaska. The car had been under water after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
This June 2, 2013 photo shows Louden Loop in Galena, Alaska, after the area was flooded. The flood caused by ice clogging the Yukon River submerged some homes, washed out the road to the community's landfill and knocked out power. On Monday, emergency responders were developing a strategy to collect spoiled meat and fly it by helicopter to the dump, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. (AP Photo/The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)
SAM HARREL
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Photo courtesy Ed Plumb (NWS) Yukon River flooding at Galena on May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service A Galena resident and his dogs were trapped in the boat for over two days. May 29, 2013. Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam May 28, 2013.
Ed Plumb
Ed Plumb / National Weather Service Galena was inundated by Yukon River flood waters, caused by an ice jam at the end of May 2013.
Ed Plumb
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsPhoto by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
The town of Galena, Alaska flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks May 28 to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Alaska Air National Guardsmen Staff Sgt. Colton Nelson (left), a loadmaster with the 144th Airlift Squadron, and Master Sgt. Brandon Stuemke, a pararescueman with the 212th Rescue Squadron, escort residents of Galena, Alaska to an awaiting C-130 “Hercules” to be transported to Fairbanks, May 28. Thirty-two residents and nineteen dogs were transported on an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 “Hercules” aircraft from Galena to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public AffairsThe Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Pararescuemen with the 212th Rescue Squadron, Alaska Air National Guard help residents of Galena, Alaska into a C-130 “Hercules” during an evacuation of the town, May 28. Galena flooded as the Yukon River overflowed during the breakup of winter ice. Residents of the town were transported to Fairbanks to wait for the water levels to subside. The Alaska National Guard sent multiple aircraft and rescue personnel to the rural Alaska village to assist with rescue efforts. Photo by Sgt. Edward Eagerton, Alaska National Guard Public Affairs
Sgt. Edward Eagerton
Paul Apfelbeck Galena resident Paul Apfelbeck and other residents flew to Fairbanks via an Alaska Air National Guard C-130 Tuesday, May 28, 2013.
Paul Apfelbeck
David Lee Galena is seeing major flooding caused by ice damming on the Yukon River. David Lee took these photos May 27, 2013 between 8AM and 9AM.
David Lee
Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013. The airport is at top of photograph.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Yukon River ice and flood waters surround the community of Galena on Monday, May 27, 2013.
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Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Tuesday, May 21, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at left of photograph.
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Aerial view of the Yukon River flooding at Fort Yukon on Monday, May 20, 2013. Flood waters line the airport at top of photograph.
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Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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Aerial view of Yukon RIver flooding at Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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Aerial view of Yukon RIver near Fort Yukon, Alaska on Tuesday, May 21, 2013.
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Satellite image of the Yukon River on May 19, 2013.
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Photo courtesy National Weather Service Yukon River ice rests near a cabin in Circle during flooding on May 21, 2013.
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FAIRBANKS -- The population of Little G-Town is 80 souls, give or take.

A green, two-story hotel near the Richardson Highway, the building houses Alaska's largest grouping of Yukon River flood refugees. The tenants are Galena villagers who fled their homes in boats on Memorial Day weekend during the worst surge any elder can remember.

Among the guests: Theresa Burley, 57, who survived three major floods in the village. None were like this, she said. The last time she saw her house, as she flew away in a rescue plane, floodwater lapped at the windows.

Burley sat outside the hotel Monday tapping a cigarette. A dented sedan pulled into the parking lot. "Chinese!" shouted the delivery driver.

There's little to do beside eat and smoke, Burley explained. Everyone is waiting for FEMA, or the state, or someone to tell them when it's safe to return. "I'm just anxious to go home and see what my house looks like," she said.

She might not like what she finds.

About 180 houses were damaged to some degree in the flood, according to the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. A preliminary damage assessment, completed over the weekend, found that 15 had been destroyed and 90 more are uninhabitable.

Galena dog musher and big game guide Gilbert Huntington saw the worst of it as one of the dozens of residents who refused to leave during the flood.

The houses have been moldering for two weeks, he said. They need to have insulation removed and to dry out. Some that could have been salvaged immediately after the flooding subsided may now be beyond repair, he believes.

"Probably within a week or two, the best thing for those homes is going to be to burn them down," Huntington said.

The musher was in Fairbanks Monday for the first time since the flood, seeking a loan to build a cabin for his family. If he's lucky, he'll have a place to live by Thanksgiving, he said.

City and tribal leaders say the village remains too dangerous for children. Contaminants might have seeped from motor oil drums, floating cars, upended fuel tanks and other hazards, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Huntington's wife, Margaret, may not be able to return home for good for months.

For now she is staying in the Tanana Chiefs Conference hotel, off of Cushman Street. Called Willow House, it's meant to provide temporary housing for people visiting the social service agency for medical treatment in Fairbanks.

Galena residents call it Galenaville, Burley said. Someone wrote "Little G-Town" in chalk in the parking lot, where an SUV pulled up Monday afternoon and two large men unloaded bulging donation boxes.

If the village had never flooded, Burley would be back in Galena, working at the school, she said. Others said they would be preparing nets for salmon season.

Eleanor Bryant, 73, and Herb DeSacia, 68, would have been gardening. The couple is staying at the hotel with their Pomeranian, Muffin, and said they're grateful for the help. "This place is tremendous," Bryant said as a worker arrived with plates of broccoli and pasta and "Inside Edition" chattered on the TV.

Still, she said, the village kids are getting antsy. "Every one of the rooms is full. Some of the women here have five or six children."

Galena's estimated population is 484. It's unclear how many were in town when the flood hit on May 27, but the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management estimates 300 were evacuated.

Bryant suspects her house is among those that are now a total loss. Her son has been back to the village and told her it appeared contaminated by sewage and fuel, she said.

That it could flood at all was a shock. The state housing authority built the home in the 1970s, Bryant said, after her previous house was rocked on its foundation during another big flood.

The new home, on higher ground, was supposed to be beyond the reach of the Yukon.

"I never thought I'd see the day," she said.

 

 

 


By KYLE HOPKINS
khopkins@adn.com
Contact Kyle Hopkins at or on