Rural Alaska

Alaska’s spring breakup flooding resulted in damage to dozens of homes and businesses

Recent ice jam flooding in Western Alaska and the Interior resulted in dozens of homes and businesses sustaining significant damage, authorities estimated this week, as spring breakup subsided and left behind a trail of destruction.

Now, residents of several affected communities are able to apply for state financial assistance with housing and repairs.

Manley Hot Springs was hit the hardest. An ice jam on the Tanana River caused waters to rapidly rise early this month in the small community about 160 miles west of Fairbanks at the end of the Elliott Highway.

At least 16 homes sustained major damage from at least a foot of water flowing into living areas, said David Williams, a regional disaster officer volunteer partner with the American Red Cross in Alaska.

Another nine homes experienced varying levels of damage, and more damage could still be discovered as recovery continues, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The town’s post office and a store were also damaged, Zidek said.

The Red Cross provided immediate assistance to 10 families in the community, Williams said. Many of the homes with significant damage are cabins or second homes, he said, but several families may continue to need temporary housing during ongoing repairs.

[Yukon River breaks up at Eagle, leaving residents relieved]

On the Kuskokwim River in McGrath, at least one home was severely damaged by floodwaters, Williams said. A village official reported last week that numerous houses had flooded basements and several roads in town were washed out or damaged by water.

Several homes in the Kuskokwim communities of Sleetmute and Red Devil were also damaged by flooding, officials say.

The Red Devil Airport closed temporarily because the runway was damaged, but it has since reopened.

Melting snow was the issue in the Copper River Valley community of Glennallen, where floodwaters receded the last week though the area remains under a flood watch until Sunday, Zidek said.

Rising water flooded the fire department and at least one other business, he said. There were also reports of basement flooding and some damage to homes.

Generally, the risk for significant ice jam flooding has mostly passed, Zidek said Wednesday, but snowmelt flooding is still possible in the Interior, where the snowpack in places was about 200% of an average year.

It’s not clear exactly how much repairs to the numerous villages will cost, he said.

Residents of Manley Hot Springs, McGrath, Sleetmute, Red Devil and Glennallen are eligible for financial aid to help with housing and repairs to homes and public infrastructure. Applications for state assistance opened Wednesday.

Individual disaster claims could cover nearly $19,000 for repairs and another $19,000 in other assistance, for cleanup costs or to replace appliances or personal items damaged or destroyed by the floods. The grants are not available to homeowners who own the property as a secondary residence or who were not living in the structure during the floods, according to a statement from the emergency operations center.

Residents can apply for assistance until July 12 online at ready.alaska.gov or by phone at 907-428-7072 and 907-428-7075.

Zidek encouraged residents even with minimal damage to apply for assistance because if additional damage is discovered, they can add that to an existing claim, but they may not be able to file a new claim after the deadline has passed.

The recovery process is lengthy, he said. He encouraged homeowners to take photos, document their damage and start making repairs if they are able. The individual assistance program can reimburse for repairs.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

Sponsored