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Disaster center open, ‘no waiting’

Team in town to work directly with flooding victims

Posted: December 10, 2013 - 1:54pm  |  Updated: December 10, 2013 - 3:34pm
Members of the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Disaster Assistance Center team wait for Kenai flood victims to come in for help applying for state disaster aid Thursday in Soldonta. The team is in town through Thursday night.  Greg Skinner
Greg Skinner
Members of the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Disaster Assistance Center team wait for Kenai flood victims to come in for help applying for state disaster aid Thursday in Soldonta. The team is in town through Thursday night.

A state team is in town and ready to help October Kenai flood victims file for disaster aid, however very few of those expected to need help have gone in.

As of mid-morning Tuesday, 11 people visited the center to fill out the five-page state application for Individual Assistance for property damages and displacement expenses caused by the Oct. 27-28 rainstorm.  About 10 people have sought help applying over the phone, according to officials.

“It’s a little bit of a concern,” Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesperson Jeremy Zidek said of the low turnout.

Zidek is in town with a group manning the State’s Disaster Assistance Center at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Emergency Management Operations Center at 253 Wilson Lane in Soldotna. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Thursday night.

People can get help with paperwork and, in most cases, have a damage verifier go out to their home the same day.

Julie Wendt’s small farm and home were flooded out during the high water of the October storm. With her documents prepared, she expected to visit the center on Tuesday afternoon and take advantage of the in-person help. Losses at Wendt’s property include the septic system and livestock.

“This is the best way,” Zidek said of the assistance office.

The assistance team expected to see at least 120 applications, based on borough numbers, and as many as 1,000.

The low numbers of Central Peninsula applicants stands out when compared to the community of 700 in Kotlik, which suffered from the West Coast storms in November. They’ve had 80 applicants so far, Zidek said.

“We know that 120 filled out borough disaster (damage reports),” Zidek said.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said Kalifornsky Beach is a “word of mouth” area. He expects that more people will begin to apply now that it is possible.

“It’s going to continue for some time,” he said.

Applications can be filled out online at Ready.alaska.gov/IA or over the phone by calling 1-855-445-7131, if people can’t get into the office before Thursday evening.

Applications will be accepted through Jan. 17, a date which could be extended.

Gov. Sean Parnell declared a state disaster on Nov. 18, which came several weeks after the borough declaration to allow for the state to do a preliminary investigation and make a recommendation to the “disaster cabinet.”

Eligibility for aid largely rests on damage from the two-day rain event, rather than the high groundwater seen across the 6,000-acre flood area during the preceding months.

According to state emergency management officials only damages from the two days in October will qualify for assistance, which can reach a maximum of $15,834.50 per household.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Mining Land and Water Chief of the Water Resources Section David Schade said if not for the rain event it’s unlikely that any disaster would have been declared. The rising groundwater problem that inundated homes Kalifornsky Beach area for months prior to the big rain just didn’t meet the statutes that guide disaster declarations, he said.

During a Nov. 5 public meeting, Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management operations section chief Kerry Siefert said that the groundwater flooding that occurred prior to heavy rain event on Oct. 27 and 28 doesn’t count as a disaster. The state encourages all who think they suffered damages as a result of flooding to apply and let the investigators sort out qualifications, he said.

Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com

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