Power restored to homes cut off by last week’s Wrangell landslide

a landslide
The Department of Transportation has now cleared the road through the slide debris that covered the road on Zimovia Highway. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Transportation)

Power was restored to Wrangell Island’s southside residents on Tuesday, but maintenance crews are still removing the debris from the landslide that killed four people on Nov. 20. Two people remain missing.

The Department of Public Safety said in a press release that the search in the slide zone is in reactive status, but the Alaska State Troopers might restart an active search if they get any new information. Scent detection dogs will be available on site for that.

Residents can now drive through the slide zone during scheduled 30-minute windows as the efforts to remove debris and stabilize the slope continue. Meanwhile, aerial surveys are being used to monitor the stability and safety of the slide area.

Community members have expressed concern about the integrity of the Wrangell Dam, but the Department of Natural Resources said that the dam does not show signs of failure.

Mason Villarma, Wrangell’s interim borough manager, is in Washington D.C. where he is talking with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Alaska’s congressional delegation. He said that Wrangell is in a good spot and that the landslide response is moving quicker than expected, although solutions will take some time.

“I don’t think the recovery is the, you know, one week to a couple of months thing. I think it’s going to be, you know, a five year process,” he said.

Villarma is expected to return to Wrangell on Friday.

LaNita Copeland is an emergency management specialist with the State Emergency Operations Center helping community members apply for state assistance. She says that in emergencies like the landslide, the state tries to replace or give funds for damaged homes and personal property, such as cars and appliances.

“Appliances are often covered, you know, like the refrigerators or the freezers, since subsistence is such a huge thing,” she said. “Not everything that you lose in a disaster will be replaced. But we try to do, you know, a reasonable amount that hopefully gets people back on their feet.”

She says that they try to help as many people as they can, but they do have limitations depending on how much a resident was involved in the incident.  She says individuals who have a home or personal property that was directly damaged from the landslide have the greatest chance of receiving assistance.

“The only ones that we would assume that they would be the type that would qualify would be the ones where it’s very clear cut,” Copeland said. “Like the family that was very, very close to the slide, and trees took out part of their property.”

People can apply for assistance at 1-844-445-7131 or online at ready.alaska.gov/recovery/IA.

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