Dozens in Hooper Bay still without permanent housing after historic storm

Homes couldn’t stand up to the high winds and flooding the storm brought in
Alaska's News Source Chief Meteorologist Melissa Frey visits with Hooper Bay residents, many of whom lost their homes to former typhoon Merbok.
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 9:02 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The storm that was spawned by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok slammed into the west coast of Alaska nearly a month ago, but the damage from the wind and flooding is still being revealed.

In Hooper Bay, winds reached over 80 mph and the storm surge was the highest anyone in the village had ever seen.

“It was pretty bad, it was coming up real fast,” Martin Joe Sr. said.

Joe, a Hooper Bay resident, said his home was a total loss after the water picked it up, spun it nearly 180 degrees, and ripped it off the water lines. He and his seven children are now staying with other family in town, while his wife had to go to Anchorage with a new baby just born four months early.

Just across the street from Joe’s home, the wind and water was also too much for Elias and Freida Stone’s home. With just the clothes on their back, they had to leave when the water started to rise.

Now the home is over a sinkhole and has to be torn down. The Stone’s plan to build a new home somewhere else, but in the meantime, they are without even basic things like snow gear.

“We actually lost everything. And some of our stuff we had to go up yesterday to look back in the hills,” Elias Stone said.

Freida says she misses her home and being under the same roof with many of her children and grandchildren.

“My children and grandchildren are staying at the church, Covenant church,” Freida said.

Other homes in the village are still standing, but many of them are barely livable, if livable at all. Dozens of people are sleeping on the floor in temporary shelters and others are with friends and family.

“It makes a lot of us nervous you know,” Hooper Bay Tribal Administrator Jan Olson said. “Like we mentioned earlier, there are still a lot of homes without electricity, the ones that do have electricity, some of them are only half powered because their meter boxes blew out.”

Olson is working to get the village rebuilt, while he and his family are also in the shelter. His home was pushed off its foundation, walls were bowed and windows were blown out.

Olson says this is just one of many projects that need to get done before winter hits.

“You can feel it’s getting colder and you know and a lot of damage, a few damages were also parts being ripped off with the winds and so it’s a rebuilding process that we’re actually going through right now,” Olson said.

It’s a long road ahead for this village, with tough decisions to be made along the way, but they say they will rebuild, they’ll do it together and they are thankful for all the help they’ve already received.