Beach Road residents ask for organized effort to winterize homes, Mayor cites ongoing landslide risks


December 3, 2020

Some Beach Road residents want to travel to their homes to winterize houses, dispose of food and bear attractants and retrieve valuables before cold weather sets in. Geoscientists say the area remains unstable and that more landslides could occur between the Chilkoot Indian Association dock and the Battery Point trailhead. The area remains under mandatory evacuation. Scientists say it's unsafe to travel the area by foot until four days after it stops raining.

"We were asked to leave on very short notice for very good reason. We understand that," Beach Road resident Phil Pink said at a Dec. 7 community update at the American Legion hall. "You are talking about fifteen families, some whose livelihoods are at risk right now. Most of them, not all, but most of them would like some sort of arrangement made so they can turn their water off and drain their pipes and pull the junk out of their refrigerators so that this week, when it gets cold they don't lose their houses or suffer terrible damage."

He asked if some accommodation could be made in a methodical, planned way so that residents don't go in by themselves without support.

"If we don't do something methodical, if we don't' do something with scrutiny, (that's) organized, we are going to end up with a large number of homeowners finding a way to their property," Pink said. "If people end up sneaking around or doing things helter-skelter, the risks are much greater."

The meeting became tense for a brief time during the discussion.

"Your question is this: what is your life and your property worth when you get stuck and me and him go in to rescue you," said an emotional Jim Hayes. "Because we're going to do it."

Mayor Douglas Olerud calmed Hayes.

"Relax. I'm not going to have everybody get into an argument," Olerud said. "That's not going to help anybody here."

Pink told Hayes wouldn't go home because he didn't want to put anyone else at risk.

Olerud reinforced the safety concerns cited by a team of state hydrogeologists and geoscientists who have been making observations and collecting data along the entire Beach Road landscape.

"You guys might not believe us, but we have looked at this many, many ways," Olerud said. "We've talked to them numerous times a day about the options to get people into their houses. Unfortunately, the answer every time from the professionals that would be assisting with that is: 'We are not going into that place.'"

Haines Borough Emergency Operations Center (EOC) spokesperson Liz Cornejo said as more data is collected in the area, the more confidence observers have that the area is unsafe.

"For several areas (in Haines) we're telling you we don't have the data to make a decision. With the (Beach Road) slide area, the more data we get, the more we're certain it's an unstable area to go into," Cornejo said.

Pink asked if the EOC could assist the neighborhood with stationing a generator at the Battery Point trailhead so that power could be quickly established once access was again approved. Olerud said he would take the request to the EOC.

A Beach Road resident told the CVN after the meeting that some of their neighbors have been considering accessing their homes on their own.


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