Biden approves federal disaster declaration for West Alaska storm

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Nearly 90 of the 100 boats people use to hunt and fish in Chevak were damaged or destroyed after a powerful storm hit the west coast of Alaska in September. Almost all the sheds that store tools for subsistence harvesting in the community were also destroyed. (Emily Schwing for Alaska Public Media & KYUK)

President Joe Biden has approved Governor Mike Dunleavy’s request for a federal disaster declaration in response to the historic storm that devastated many coastal communities in western Alaska last weekend.

This makes federal funding available to Alaskans affected by the storm, as well as money available to eligible state, tribal, and local governments, as well as select nonprofit organizations.

While there have been no reports of storm-related injuries or fatalities, the wreckage stretches approximately 1,000 miles from the Alaskan coast. These range from damage to roads in Nome to the loss of Shaktoolik’s berm to the sea. In Chevak, a power outage and the loss of many local boats destroyed both frozen subsistence foods and the means to replace them. .

Alaska’s congressional delegation applauded Biden’s response in a statement late Friday, which came two days after Dunleavy made a formal request to the federal government.

“So many communities in western Alaska have been devastated and are in desperate need of federal support,” said U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. “I thank the President for listening to us and recognizing the urgency of this situation. With winter approaching, this federal assistance cannot come soon enough.

“I appreciate the Biden administration’s quick response approving Governor Dunleavy’s request for a major disaster declaration to support Alaska’s recovery from the impacts of Typhoon Merbok on families, homes, businesses, schools and infrastructure in Alaska,” U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan said.

“I am grateful that President Biden understood the urgent need for federal assistance for the people of Western Alaska and thank him for quickly approving the governor’s request for a disaster declaration.” said Congresswoman Mary Peltola.

Biden’s endorsement of a disaster declaration came with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell, who is traveling to Alaska this weekend to see the storm damage firsthand. . Dunleavy, who has previously declared the storm a state disaster, stressed the need for relief efforts to move quickly over the next month before winter freezes up.

“With winter coming in just weeks and bringing a whole new set of hazards, we have hard work ahead of us to protect and prepare communities for frost, especially those that were already vulnerable before the storm hit,” Criswell said.

The U.S. government says federal funding is available for residents and business owners who suffered losses in the storm in the Bering Strait, Kashunamiut, Lower Kuskokwim and Lower Yukon regional school attendance areas. People can start asking for help on DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA app.

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