Gov. Mike Dunleavy (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (Courtesy Photo / Office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy)

Opinion: Our hearts go out to Southeast Alaska

Governor shares thoughts, response information on recent disaster.

  • By Gov. Mike Dunleavy
  • Monday, December 14, 2020 10:49am
  • Opinion

I’m confident I speak for Alaskans everywhere when I say that our hearts go out to the people of Southeast Alaska. In past weeks, torrential rain and winds approaching hurricane speeds have caused widespread damage up and down the Panhandle.

No community has been more heavily impacted than Haines. Dozens of mudslides along the road between downtown and the ferry terminal have forced scores of Alaskans into shelters or temporary living arrangements. Many families have not been able to return to their homes to assess the damage, and some are facing the prospect of rebuilding their lives.

[Governor declares disaster for storm-ravaged Southeast]

Tragically, the slides are believed to have claimed the lives of Alaskans David Simmons and Jenae Larson. By all accounts, both lived their lives with distinction. David, a Fulbright scholar who recently took over the Haines Economic Development Corporation, spent the past few months helping businesses weather the pandemic. Jenae, a life-long resident of Haines, had just embarked on her journey as an educator. Both will be dearly missed.

In response to this crisis, I have declared a region-wide disaster. This process is anticipated to lead to a presidential disaster declaration, making available a number of federal relief programs to residents and local governments.

In the meantime, the state will continue its close coordination with local communities. From the very start, state assets ranging from law enforcement officers, to heavy equipment operators, to search and rescue teams have worked side-by-side with local responders. Meanwhile, specialized responders, including geologists and LIDAR operators, are working to map the mountainsides and assess ongoing risks.

These efforts are intended to complement the work of local officials. Haines Mayor Doug Olerud and Borough Manager Alekka Fullerton, both of whom recently took office, have done stellar work managing the situation on the ground. First responders, many of whom volunteered from neighboring communities, have worked tirelessly through snow, ice, and rain to keep their neighbors safe.

I would also like to thank the many responders who have been operating in emergency mode for nearly ten consecutive months. Despite this burden, these heroes continue to give their full effort to the crisis in Southeast Alaska. From road crews reaching stranded residents, to park rangers augmenting local law enforcement, to information officers putting in long hours to keep the public informed, Alaska is lucky to have these dedicated public servants on our side.

It’s important to know that the immediate danger has not yet passed for many Southeast communities. The Department of Natural Resource continues to assess landslide potential and dam integrity throughout the region on a daily basis. For as long as the danger persists, the state’s emergency personnel will continue to assist these communities.

Recovering from an event of this magnitude will not be quick or easy, but Alaskans are no strangers to rebuilding. As we move from active response operations to recovery, know that I am fully committed to seeing this restoration effort through to the end.

Those looking to lend a helping hand can donate to the Salvation Army’s region-wide response effort at https://give-ak.salvationarmy.org/give/316562/. In addition, KHNS FM has compiled a list of assistance opportunities on https://khns.org/looking-to-lend-a-hand-in-haines-here-are-some-ways-you-can-help.

• Mike Dunleavy is the 12th governor of Alaska.

More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Feb. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Sullivan sinks to a new low

Last week, Sen. Dan Sullivan mimicked Donald Trump’s endless stream of baseless… Continue reading

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign. I feel it is time to speak up about… Continue reading

Juneau School District Superintendent Frank Hauser provides an overview of restructuring options being considered during a Community Budget Input Session at Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Smearing school board members and the superintendent is vindictive and destructive

A school consolidation plan announced by the Juneau School District (JSD) has… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Gloomy predictions for ship-free days are a misleading scare tactic

“What? Only one day a week ship-free? Can’t we have Sundays too?”… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: A day of rest from cruise ships is good for Juneau

A lot has been said about the Saturday free day from large… Continue reading

(City and Borough of Juneau photo)
My Turn: Property tax assessment and guardrails

The “money grab” by the CBJ Assessor’s Office is over with passage… Continue reading

Most Read