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Facing second Bering Sea storm, Adak declares local disaster

As another Bering Sea storm pounded Adak Thursday afternoon, town officials announced a local disaster declaration from a storm that hit the remote island less than a week ago.

They aren't asking for money, though. Town officials want advice.

In Adak, the average age is 39, more than double the age of the town itself. The Aleutian island was a U.S. Navy base until 1997 and it wasn't incorporated as a second-class city until 2001. City Manager Layton Lockett said many of the town's young residents and leaders are inexperienced with natural disasters.

"The Navy did everything before this was a city," Lockett said. "We are a bit inexperienced. We've run into the question of 'how can we best assist the private property owners?'"

"The thought is, we need help from certain offices or programs to help us navigate through this, so we can share the information. We're trying to take the independent approach."

According to the declaration, on Dec. 12 and 13, hurricane-force winds gusting over 100 mph damaged many structures in Adak. The declaration said 24 homes "require immediate repairs to prevent further storms from blowing the damaged debris into other areas." The Premier Harvest Seafood Process Facility, Aleut Corp. marine houses, Alaska Airlines equipment, a port facility, Adak water and sewer operational facilities and other privately owned facilities were severely damaged and required "emergency protective measures."

The arrival of Thursday's storm just made problems worse.

"It's raining and blowing instead of snowing now," Lockett said late Thursday afternoon. "So now the buildings that have roof damage have interior waterfalls. It's not a thrilling prospect today. It kind of makes doing a recovery difficult."

The National Weather Service issued storm and gale warnings through Friday night for the Aleutian Islands. The agency forecasts strong winds for Adak, Atak, Unalaska and Nikolski through Saturday.

Michael Kutz, an Anchorage-based forecaster for the agency, said Thursday morning the latest storm's path will take it through the western Bering Sea -- focusing its effects on the Aleutian chain, much like the storm before it.

The latest storm, Kutz said, is fueled by a number of seasonal factors, including interactions between columns of cold and relatively warm air.

The storm will also bring an associated front with it, which won't hit the Aleutians directly but contribute to high winds in the region.

"Most of the frontal boundary itself will pass just south of the Aleutians," Kutz said. "There's not a whole lot of wind associated with that, relatively speaking: 35, 40-knot winds. Until Saturday morning, most of your winds across the Aleutians will be generally westerly at about 45 knots."

Kutz said computer models of the main storm's course show it potentially turning toward other Alaska shores as it loses strength.

"It probably heads for Nunivak Island by Saturday, Sunday, but by that time it'll be weakened down to gale levels," Kutz said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Layton Lockett's name and misstated his title. He is the city manager, not the city clerk.

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