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Disaster money sent to homes damaged in winter storms

Glenn Highway.jpg
Khursten Cornwall
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Wind pushes over a vehicle on the Glenn Highway on Jan. 2.

Millions of dollars in state disaster relief may be distributed this spring after what the officially declared Severe Winter Storms in the Interior and Southcentral knocked out power and ruined structures.

Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management received about 1600 applications for storm damage relief in March. Earlier this winter, the Interior was hit with heavy snow, then rain, then snow again. Jeremy Zidek of Homeland says several areas of Alaska had unusually severe winter storms, or extreme winds, or extreme cold temperatures.

“The storm was really kind of like a series of storms. Really that series of storms continued down into Southeast as well and impacted, you know, Yakutat and other places down in the panhandle,” he said.

On January 3rd, Governor Mike Dunleavy declared a disaster in the Denali Borough, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Nenana, Delta/Greely and the Copper River Regions, and of course the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Over the New Year holiday, some 20,000 households in the Mat-Su lost power, severe wind gusts tore buildings apart and thousands of homes were left with freezing pipes.

“It was a very large area for disaster declaration. Normally we're confined to kind of one political jurisdiction. We really saw this storm event span of very large part of the state, which made it unique and also a big challenge to respond,” he said.

The Governor’s declaration activated the State Public Assistance and Individual Assistance programs through Homeland Security and Emergency Management. It meant Alaskans could apply if their primary residence, primary mode of transportation, or essential personal property was damaged by the storms, or if they had medical/funeral/dental needs.

Zidek says more applications came in from the MatSu borough than any other area. At the close of the application period March 4, there were 1580 applicants. 242 of those were from the Fairbanks North Star Borough, 67 were from the Delta Junction/ Fort Greely area, and 12 from the Denali area.

Now the division staff is going through those applications to disburse the money, which could be millions of dollars.

“Disasters can run up into the millions. Alaska's a very expensive place to rebuild. We have a limited construction season, and a lot of times materials have to be brought in from far away. So that's always in the mix,” he said.

Applicants will be asked to provide proof of ownership and occupancy documents, photo identification, a detailed list of damages with photo or video documentation, invoices for repairs that have been completed, and insurance documents.

Robyne began her career in public media news at KUAC, coiling cables in the TV studio and loading reel-to-reel tape machines for the radio station.