Barrow assessing damage after powerful storm

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2000

BARROW (AP) -- The wild wind and pounding surf settled down in Barrow on Friday, with the action picking up further east.

The nation's northernmost city was lashed by an unusually powerful summer storm Thursday that featured 70-mph winds and seas to 20 feet.

Much of Barrow had returned to normal by Friday morning, and a high-wind warning and surf advisory was canceled. Winds were down to 25 mph and seas less than eight feet.

The storm left a large dredge stranded on the beach, and public works crews labored through the day to reopen damaged roads. A washed-out culvert between the city and Point Barrow was restored and opened to limited traffic, city officials said.

Barrow's two boat ramps were washed out, and so was most of a 10-foot-high seawall that protected waterfront roads, homes and businesses.

Mike Donovan, who heads the North Slope Borough's department of municipal services, said private houses were also hard hit.

''We had a lot of roofs blown off, a lot of water damage and broken windows,'' he said.

The department worked through the night Thursday to build berms to protect roads from surf erosion, Donovan said. More than 100 large truckloads of gravel were hauled in to shore up roads and the city's seawall.

''Our people worked around the clock to ensure the safety of our residents,'' said borough mayor George Ahmaogak. ''We live in a demanding climate. The costs of an arctic storm can be devastating.''

The borough-owned dredge was pulled from its moorings about half a mile off the coast of Barrow and driven ashore.

The extent of damage to the multi-million-dollar dredge wasn't known Friday. City officials said insurance assessors were scheduled to arrive in Barrow on Saturday. The dredge scoops up mud from the sea floor and pumps it ashore to counter beachfront erosion.

Tamara Enz, a wildlife researcher, was evacuated Thursday from Cooper Island, a low-lying sand island east of Point Barrow. Enz said she wasn't expecting a rescue, though she was glad to be in a safer place.

''My antenna had blown over earlier in the day, so I hadn't talked to anybody all day,'' Enz said. ''I didn't know anybody was coming.

''I was lying on the floor of my tent reading when I heard the helicopter come in,'' she said. ''The wind had pretty much flattened the walls of the tent, so I couldn't sit up or stand.

Enz was on the island to count and do research on black guillermots, a small black-and-white seabird.

There were no reported injuries from the storm.

On Friday the National Weather Service issued a high-wind warning for the North Slope east of Oliktok as far east as the Canadian border. The weather service said westerly winds gusted to 50 mph.

Weather officials said the storm was moving away from shore and was slowly weakening. They said winds were expected to drop to about 30 miles an hour by Friday night.

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