Kuskokwim Bay Communities Seek Aid After Wind Storm

Jan 4, 2018

Both Platinum and Quinhagak are applying for aid following a high speed wind storm that ripped through the communities days before Christmas.

The City of Quinhagak is surveying the extent of the damage.

“We started the list because we needed to know how many people got damages, and estimates on how much it will cost to replace them or fix them," said City Administrator Annie Roach.

Damages include smokehouses, sheds, and fish racks blown apart. Porches wrenched from homes; windows cracked; and boats flipped, wrecking motors.

Roach says residents have been streaming into the City Office to share what happened to them, and both the Red Cross and the State have reached out to Quinhagak, asking for this information. Roach plans to submit their findings in the coming days and hopes that funding will follow.

In the meantime, residents are working to repair what they can. The most pressing issue is roofing. Many homes are threatened by water damage after losing pieces of their roofs. Tin sheeting covers most houses, and the village store quickly sold out days after the storm. Store Manager Warren Jones says that only rolled roofing remains, and that people are using a mixture of the rolls and tarps as a temporary fix.

“So I’m just waiting on people to call me if they need tin and stuff so we can place an order through air freight," Jones said.

Air delivery will jack up the price, but the other option is to wait for the spring barge.

On Tuesday the Quinhagak Native Corporation finished repairing what they could on the fuel pumps that were disabled during the storm, but a lineman has to fly in from Anchorage to fix the pumps’ electric line. Until then, workers will continue to pump gasoline and stove oil manually. The rationing of both has ended.  

One of the biggest casualties of the storm was the fuel warehouse that toppled over with an employee inside. Fuel Manager John Hunter says that the building has been demolished and replaced with something he hopes won’t blow away: a giant storage van.

“We insulated inside the van and put in a floor, ceiling, and making a desk for the gas man,” Hunter explained.

Surprisingly, a likely storm casualty was left unscathed. Natural Resource Director for the Native Village of Kwinhagak Stephan Jones did not measure any erosion on the crumbling Quinhagak coastline. Even the village’s famous archeological site looks untouched, except for a missing tent that the wind carried away.

But the storm did alter the land.

“We had snow before that storm, about six inches or more," Tribal Administrator Ferdinand Cleveland Jr. said. "And after the storm it all melted away.”

The wind also blew away the river ice. That removed access to hunting, fishing, and trapping grounds. Cleveland says that all of those lie across the river to the north, covered now with only inches of ice. It's impacting trappers' abilities to earn an income and subsistence users abilities to feed their families.

Further down the coast from Quinhagak, the village of Platinum also sustained minor damage and is reviewing aid applications.