Inside the Gates: Winter storms, strong winds kept Alaska National Guard busy in January

Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 2:05 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - January turned out to be very busy for the Alaska National Guard as troops were deployed around the state to deal with several winter storms.

The National Guard’s deployment included a three-day mission to remove several feet of snow in the coastal community of Yakutat on Jan. 12.

“We cleared approximately 1 million pounds of snow from the elementary school,” said Maj. Peter Browning, deputy commander of the Civil Support Team. “Then follow on forces cleared the Head Start Building of snow.”

The troops also got rid of snow that covered fuel tanks and fire hydrants while they dealt with several challenges.

“It was wet, heavy snow, and then while we were there I don’t believe it stopped raining on us the whole time,” Browning said.

The National Guard was called to assist with snow removal in Yakutat after it had previously overwhelmed local resources.

“The local resources were exhausted, regional resources were exhausted, they’d already exhausted all their contract resources, they were fully engaged,” said Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander Mark Roberts. “They were trying to hire additional people and they weren’t available.”

The Emergency Operations Center coordinated deployments around the state with the National Guard. January kept both groups busy.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared disaster emergencies in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Denali Borough, Delta/Greely and Copper River on Jan. 3.

National Guard troops also deployed to Fairbanks on Dec. 31 to perform evacuations for residents penned in by the severe weather, and were on standby to assist in the Mat-Su in early January as an intense windstorm ripped through the area, damaging homes and commercial buildings.

“It just really challenges everyone to work together, to help the local communities respond,” Roberts said.

The Alaska National Guard stands ready to assist if needed.

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