State of Alaska prepares to submit request for federal major disaster declaration

Published: Dec. 24, 2018 at 3:09 PM AKST
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State of Alaska emergency officials with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration have concluded preliminary damage assessments of residential and infrastructural damage to submit a federal major disaster declaration before year's end.

It was a week-long assessment looking at damage in the Kenai Peninsula and Mat-Su Boroughs and the Municipality of Anchorage. According to the State Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander Bryan Fisher, 620 homes identified by locals as having the most significant damage were included in the assessment to get a preliminary sample of damages across the three jurisdictions.

Fisher says they found significant damage throughout the assessment areas. Of the 620 homes, nine were categorized as destroyed — seven in Anchorage and two in the Mat-Su — and 288 suffered major damage. He said 40 of the homes that suffered major damage were in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

But this is only the beginning, Fisher says. 6,250 people have applied for the state disaster program.

“It’s important to note there is much more damage out there than is in that 620 homes number,” Fisher said. “So out of that 6,250, there are more projected major damage or destroyed homes.”

So what will the President actually be looking at when he receives the State of Alaska’s request for a federal major disaster declaration?

Fisher says the assessment will include the aforementioned residential damage, amounting to $28 million, as well as infrastructural assessments looking at roads, bridges, schools and buildings in Southcentral Alaska. Fisher has a number for that assessment, too.

“We are looking at approximately $48 million in confirmed damages at this point,” Fisher says. “That by no means will be the end.”

Fisher says the current government shutdown will not affect the timeline for the disaster request, and that FEMA is up and running despite the events in Washington D.C.

“We have been assured by our partners at the Federal Emergency Management Agency our request will not be slowed down based on that partial shutdown,” Fisher said. “It’s winter up here. It’s been a significant disaster, and we’re looking for that assistance sooner rather than later.”

As for those who have been displaced, the state is providing temporary accommodations — putting families up in hotels and making sure they have all necessary supplies like food, clothing, water and gas money for transportation. But Fisher says it's a tough time heading into the holidays for Alaskan families displaced by the magnitude-7.0 earthquake.

“It’s going to be a long road to recovery,” Fisher said. “Southcentral Alaska isn’t going to look like it did before Nov. 30 and before the earthquake. We will be in a new norm.”

Fisher says the federal major disaster declaration will be submitted before the end of 2018.