Dyea residents return to flood-damaged homes

Posted: Friday, July 26, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Before he knew it, Dyea resident George D'Amico said he was standing in thigh-deep flood waters early Tuesday.

D'Amico said the water rapidly rose as he was calling his two dogs away from flooding caused when a landslide near the West Creek Glacier dropped debris into a lake below, which sent a rush of water toward town.

''I went from dry feet up to mid-thigh in water in about 15 seconds. That's when I put my canoe on the porch and decided if the water came into my house I'd get into the canoe and paddle to Skagway.''

A helicopter crew spotted D'Amico, who owns George's Auto Repair in nearby Skagway, and waited until a search-and-rescue crew from the Skagway Fire Department arrived.

After trying unsuccessfully to reach the house by raft, the crew helped D'Amico and his dogs escape safely in the canoe.

West Creek now surrounds the home D'Amico rents and he isn't able to live there. As of Wednesday, the yard was covered with 10 inches of thick glacial silt and the driveway was marked with huge water-filled holes.

''One cabin was washed off of the foundation and moved 150 yards into the trees,'' he said. ''The main house is OK, but the basement is flooded. I have an indoor swimming pool now.''

The flooding Tuesday morning forced the evacuation of more than 35 people from Dyea to Skagway, about 10 miles away.

The Dyea Road re-opened Tuesday afternoon. The Dyea campground is scheduled to re-open later this week. But the West Creek road and bridge remain closed.

Skagway City Manager Bob Ward said the city would send in workers Thursday to remove boulders at the base of the West Creek gorge that are diverting the flow of water in the area.

''The water levels are still very high and a significant amount of water was diverted out of the banks into areas where the river doesn't run,'' he said. ''We need to get that situation remedied and get West Creek back into West Creek.''

The city of Skagway may make a disaster declaration, Ward said, which could bring financial assistance to beleaguered property owners.

''We're still considering the potential of a disaster declaration depending on the efforts required to clean up after this,'' he said. ''We just don't know what we have until we clear some of this water out of the way.''

The floors in the family room of Pattie Maggi's home are buckled and water is coming in around water pipes in the basement, she said.

''My husband took a pickup load of stuff to be destroyed. Books, pictures, some stuff that can't be replaced,'' she said. ''We had a shed that moved off of its foundation. It's still on our property. The trees stopped it.''

Neighbor Beryl Hosford and her husband don't expect to be able to live in their house for some time. Their well, septic system and generator were flooded, she said. Their garage, furnace room and wash room are filled with mud. The flood moved 20 cords of wood stored in their yard for winter.

''There's no way we can stay there now. We can't get to it except by canoe,'' Hosford said. ''The first thing is to get the water drained off.''

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