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Dunleavy to seek federal disaster declaration for Western Alaska storm

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a Sept. 18, 2022 press conference on the Western Alaska storm.
Wesley Early
Alaska Public Media
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a Sept. 18, 2022 press conference on the Western Alaska storm.

At a press conference in Bethel Monday night, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he will request a federal disaster declaration for last weekend’s Western Alaska storm. The declaration would make federal funding and support available for recovery efforts.

Alaska National Guard Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, says that before the governor can submit a request, state officials must determine how much funding to ask for.

Saxe said the state will ask the federal government for both public and private assistance.

“So that would be money for infrastructure and also for individual homes,” Saxe said. “And to get that, we need to get boots on the ground from FEMA, which they’re doing right now, to assess exactly what has happened and the dollar amount.”

Dunleavy, who has already declared the storm a state disaster, said if the federal disaster declaration is approved, FEMA would cover at least 75% of eligible disaster costs.

“We think a lot of the damage is going to be as a result of erosion on roads, some structures, maybe some power poles, etc., so certainly we believe that’s fitting for the federal government to help with that,” Dunleavy said.

On Monday, state officials visited Hooper Bay and Scammon Bay and flew over Chevak. Dunleavy said there was less damage than some officials had anticipated, and things were starting to go back to normal.

On Tuesday, officials plan to visit Newtok. They’ll go to Bering Strait communities, including Golovin and Nome, later this week.

Bryan Fisher, director of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said 63 Western Alaska homes have reported damage so far.

Katie Anastas, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage