Alaska National Guard deployed to Yakutat for snow removal

Nearly all Juneau schools will reopen on Thursday
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 1:57 PM AKST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 4:21 PM AKST
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YAKUTAT, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska National Guardsmen departed Anchorage early Wednesday morning to assist residents of Yakutat with snow removal that threatens to damage or collapse dozens of buildings in the coastal community.

A local disaster emergency was declared for Yakutat, and Yakutat Mayor Cindy Bremner and Manager Jon Erickson wrote a letter to the State Emergency Operations Center detailing the damage and prioritizing which buildings would need snow removed first.

“Several feet of snow and ice have accumulated on the community health center that significant leakage and water damage is occurring throughout the building,” Bremner and Erickson wrote.

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement on Tuesday, predicting rainfall and gusty wind conditions for numerous Southeast communities beginning Thursday and continuing into the weekend.

Alaska National Guardsmen have been deployed to Yakutat as heavy snow threatens to collapse...
Alaska National Guardsmen have been deployed to Yakutat as heavy snow threatens to collapse dozens of buildings.(Photo courtesy Yakutat Manager Jon Erickson)

“The City-Borough of Yakutat and Yakutat Tlingit Tribe are requesting assistance from the State of Alaska Emergency Operations Center to deploy the National Guard for assistance to remove snow and ice to save our communities vital facilities,” Bremner and Erickson wrote.

That request was granted on Tuesday, when the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management announced that about 20 members of the National Guard would be deployed along with vehicles to help with snow removal.

The mix of heavy snowfall and freezing rain have forced the only health care clinic in the community to close, threatens the only water storage tank, the senior center, multiple schools and nearly every other business and government building. The letter from Bremner and Erickson said that snow removal contractors had “maxed out their resources” on just the health care clinic and are unable to assist in snow removal for much of the rest of the buildings that are threatened.

Alaska National Guardsmen have been deployed to Yakutat as heavy snow threatens to collapse...
Alaska National Guardsmen have been deployed to Yakutat as heavy snow threatens to collapse dozens of buildings.(Photo courtesy Yakutat Manager Jon Erickson)

“We are formally requesting emergency status for assistance to save our community,” Bremner and Erickson wrote.

Juneau Public Information Officer Lisa Phu announced on Wednesday that all Juneau School District schools will reopen on Jan. 13, except for Riverbend Elementary School.

“The district anticipates students will be able to attend on Friday, but won’t know for sure until tomorrow afternoon. Riverbend families will be updated on Thursday afternoon, January 13, about the plan for reopening the school to students,” Phu wrote.

Phu noted that school buses for Juneau schools are unable to travel on Thane Road due to high avalanche danger and buses may run late.

A flood watch was issued by the National Weather Service and is currently in effect from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning in Juneau.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include additional information.

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