BETHEL, Alaska (AP) — Villages in an Alaska region are preparing for possible evacuations because of an increased possibility of spring flooding.
The state’s emergency operations center is monitoring melting ice on rural rivers in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, KYUK-AM reported Tuesday.
Entire villages may need to be flown to Bethel, Anchorage or Fairbanks as the National Weather Service reports the region faces a greater chance of flooding than in recent years.
The emergency operations center has coordinated with villages and the Association of Village Council Presidents to prepare for flooding. The state also has agreements with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and Tanana Chiefs Conference for flights out of the villages.
“The only caveat to that strategy is that unless a declaration is made by the state for disaster, there’s no funding stream for it,” Operations center Response Manager Claude Denver said of the flights.
Area communities should already be taking preliminary measures such as moving elderly residents who live along the riverbank to safer areas, Denver said.
Villages should consider placing sandbags around critical infrastructure such as power plants and communications equipment, while vehicles and boats should be moved to higher ground, Denver said.
Residents should move to higher ground if water breaches their homes. Villages should also prepare communal shelter spaces, he said.
“Usually, most communities have got some agreement in place with the local school,” Denver said.
Residents will be forced to weigh the dangers of rising waters against the possibility of exposure to the COVID-19 virus if flooding occurs. Social distancing should be the primary form of protection in communal spaces, he said.
“To protect yourself from being in the water, you’re going to have to make some choices,” Denver said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.