North to Alaska! Corps Helping with Flood Relief Efforts in Remote Village

Editor's Note: Over the summer, numerous Corps and partners have been assisting with flood relief efforts in the remote village of Galena, Alaska as part of a FEMA - AmeriCorps mission assignment. To date, among The Corps Network's membership, Washington Conservation Corps, Conservation Corps Minnesota and Iowa, and American YouthWorks have sent crews. In addition to the excellent story below that we are republishing courtesy of AmeriCorps and the National Service Blog, FEMA has an excellent resource page that includes items like a pair of striking before and after satellite images that show the rapid extent of flooding. There is also a Yukon AmeriCorps response Facebook page that includes photos and regular updates. As usual, we are proud of our members and partners for their excellent work to help out in a time of need, no matter how challenging the logistics or how far the distance!

By Paula Katrina Drago

On June 25, President Obama made a federal disaster declaration for parts of Alaska along the Yukon River due to ice jam-related flooding from May 17 to June 11. On cue, a team of AmeriCorps members soon arrived in the remote village of Galena to help people there begin to recover.

Flooding affected villages along a 1,200-mile stretch of the Yukon in the United States – a distance roughly the length of the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, MN, to Vicksburg, MS. The ice blockage sent water flowing into Galena and other villages along the river, flooding homes, schools, and other critical infrastructure.

Response efforts to Galena were unlike any other flood response as the town is only accessible by plane and barge (and only plane once the river freezes up in early fall). The logistics of moving people and resources in and out of the village poses some unique challenges, and any work that isn’t complete by the time winter arrives in late September won’t be resumed until May.

AmeriCorps members arrived in Galena on July 13, two weeks after FEMA made the official federal disaster declaration. Within an hour of landing, they were in the field beginning the critical work of repairing the community. Since their arrival, AmeriCorps members have:

  • Gathered more than 100 homeowner work-order requests for volunteer assistance and established a collaborative work order and dispatch process for the Galena area.
  • Completed more than 70 work orders.
  • Collected and distributed 500+ pounds of food, 40+ pounds of clothes, and 5,600+ pounds of other supplies.
  • Provided direct volunteer management support to over 30 volunteers.

AmeriCorps members are supporting shelter operations and helping residents muck and gut, remove debris, and repair their homes, but that’s only a snapshot of the national service response. For a more detailed picture of what AmeriCorps is doing in Galena, watch the video below and read a member’s account of her team’s experience. 

Going to the Dogs

AmeriCorps has also played a critical role in addressing the impact of the flood on animals there because Galena’s dogs are more than pets—they’re integral to survival.

Dogs help residents find their way home in poor weather conditions, and they alert owners to predators and other dangers. Many are part of dog sled teams that are an important form of transportation – especially when temperatures fall below the point where fuel freezes and render motorized vehicles useless – in a town that is also a stop for the famous Iditarod race. 

Compared to many of the disasters AmeriCorps members have responded to in the last two years, Galena, Alaska, is small in size. Yet whether a disaster impacts millions, thousands, or hundreds, each family receives the same response whenever their world gets turned upside down.

When the work orders arrive, our teams don’t refer to them by a number or even a last name. They see instead that “Allison’s sister” needs some trees removed or that “John’s father” needs his home mucked and gutted. By connecting on this intimate level, AmeriCorps is able to do an even-better job with what we do best: getting things done.

To view the original version of this story and see additional photos and the short video, please click here to journey to the National Service blog.