Water rushes past a business in Seward during flooding last October. Victims of the high water are still working to get their lives back to normal.
M. Scott Moon
Recovery work in and around Seward made necessary by the October storms that swept across Southcentral Alaska in October is proceeding, but much of the job won’t be finished until spring, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.
The storm brought high winds, rain and flooding that eroded the banks along local streams, damaged bridges and roads, uprooted trees and damaged buildings. That brought immediate responses from the borough and the state, which declared the region a disaster area and made emergency appropriations.
The federal government followed up recently by declaring the event a national disaster, opening the way for federal reimbursement funds.
Meanwhile, efforts by Seward, borough, state and federal officials to assess and address the damage have resulted in reconstruction contracts and some work has been done.
“Things in Seward are coming along slowly but surely, but the weather crept up on us as far as completing projects right now,” said Scott Walden, the borough’s emergency management coordinator, on Tuesday. “In that short warm spell, we did get engineers and contractors back out there to do some brief work, and they’re now planning on finishing up in the spring.”
Borough Road Service Area officials have engineering estimates for some road repair projects, and now are awaiting more accurate figures, Walden said.
“We met recently with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and in the first week of January the borough, city and others will meet with FEMA again to complete work sheets for funding to get these jobs done,” he said.
Among the major projects still to be dealt with, Walden said, is the gravel storm runoff deposited in local streambeds.
“Since a lot of it is private property, federal land and Native corporation land, we really can’t just go in to clean that out,” Walden said. “So we are looking at a debris-removal process. We will speak with FEMA on that as well.”
Much of the basic repair work is done, damaged roads in the Seward area are passable, and bridges are generally functional, Walden added. Work on that infrastructure won’t be completed until perhaps May, however.
“Everything is on track now to get things completed and try to get things back to the way they were before this disaster hit,” he said.
Seward City Clerk Jean Lewis agreed the most of the recovery efforts are being hampered by frozen ground, but that’s normal for this time of year.
“They’re about 90 percent done with the preliminary damage assessment,” she said.
A lot of fill was deposited by floodwaters in Lowell Creek that will have to be dug out, Lewis said. That process is still being worked out. Local roads are now snow-covered and frozen, so its just typical winter driving now. She noted a lot of damage at an intersection of Barwell, Phoenix Drive and Chiswell Street that could turn into a mess at breakup.
Still, bad weather being a fact of life in Alaska, Seward residents have seen this kind of thing before. It’s a matter of picking up afterwards and carrying on.
“This is a pretty resilient little town,” Lewis said.
Hal Spence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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