Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Lower 48 volunteers assist with storm cleanup


June 3, 2021

Courtesy of Matt Jones.

Verne Hartz and Andy Torborg volunteered from Arizona to help with Haines disaster recovery cleanup.

Five volunteers from a Lutheran Church in Tuscon, Arizona recently wrapped up a two-week trip to Haines where they helped with disaster debris cleanup.

Verne Hartz, Andy Torborg, Greg Rachuy, Levi Nash and David Broughton worked on 11 different properties. The labor included a beach cleanup between town and Battery Point, digging out fuel tanks from debris that was covered in the landslide material, balancing and shoring up structures that were undercut by flooding, emptying flooded crawlspaces and moving damaged furniture in a trailer slated for demolition.

"They assisted with the demolition of the trailer, removing the roof and sorting the rafters and metal so it can be recycled for future use," said Matt Jones, Haines Long Term Recovery Group member. "They assisted three different properties with general spring cleaning and cleanup that had been scattered by the storm."

Another volunteer group is scheduled to arrive in July and is being coordinated by the Echo Ranch Bible Camp. Forty teenagers and five adults will help with cleanup projects.

The volunteer efforts are part of a larger disaster recovery response organized by the Haines Long Term Recovery Group. The group is made up of nonprofits, churches and other volunteers. They've assisted individuals in applying for relief funding, worked toward identifying disaster related needs and collected related data among other things.

In total, 9-10 houses were destroyed by the December storms, 28 are currently unsuitable for occupancy and 23 families remain in temporary housing.

"The financial recovery needs are significant," the group wrote in a letter to the borough assembly. "Haines did not receive the FEMA Disaster Declaration for Individual Assistance, and the available financial resources are significantly less than the identified needs of the survivors."

The state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management sent representatives to Haines in May to conduct follow-up assessments for 16 applicants whose homes affected by the storms couldn't be accessed last winter. The state has dispersed $92,082 in individual assistance, $57,928 in temporary housing assistance and $42,411 for other needs.

Chilkoot Indian Association received 58 applications for individual assistance through its $900,000 federal Housing and Urban Development Imminent Threat grant. Four awards have been made as of this month.

Individual assistance from donations made to the Salvation Army, Chilkat Valley Community Foundation, Southeast Alaska Independent Living, Haines Chamber of Commerce, and Haines Ministerial Association amounts to $306,000 as of May 1. The money went toward food, rent and mortgage, utilities, driveway grading, clothing assistance, mental health support and minor building repairs.

"The valley-wide effects to our survivors, businesses, employment, housing and mental health are serious and significant," recovery group coordinator Sylvia Heinz said. "The needs are sobering, but the coordinated efforts of government, nonprofits, church groups, and volunteers are inspiring. We have a long road to recovery, and I see everyone jogging along, in it for the long haul."


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