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President Obama Declares Disaster for Alaska Over September Storms

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Several parts of Alaska that got slammed by a series of September storms collectively rivaling the strength of Hurricane Sandy have been declared disaster areas as Native and other communities struggle to deal with the fallout two months later.

Federal disaster aid was made available to Alaska “to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the area affected by a severe storm, straight-line winds, flooding, and landslides during the period of September 15-30, 2012,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Tuesday November 27. Areas hit included the Alaska Gateway Rural Educational Attendance Area (REAA), Chugach REAA, Denali Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough, and the Matanuska Susitna Borough, FEMA said in a release.

During the second half of September at least three storms smashed into south-central Alaska, carrying 90-mile-per-hour wind gusts, washing out railroad tracks and inundating several towns and communities, the website Progressive Alaska reported.

Seward alone, which is normally dry, got hit with 8.17 inches of rain that brought record flooding, reported. Rivers rose to record-setting heights of 10 or even 20 feet, in the case of Resurrection River, the weather site said.

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"During this [midweek] storm, the winds were from the south-southwest, jamming right up the bay and into town. The flow was overriding the Kenai Mountains, which rise to above 5,000 feet," AccuWeather’s senior meteorologist, Jim Andrews, said on the site.

The disaster declaration frees up federal funding for state and eligible local and tribal governments, as well as some private nonprofit organizations, “on a cost-sharing basis,” FEMA’s announcement said.

Meanwhile residents of tiny Kivalina, in northwestern Alaska, are struggling to maintain their water supply through the winter, in the aftermath of floods that ruptured the pipe that brings water into their supply tanks, the Alaska Dispatch reported on November 8. This cut the community’s water supply in half.

Traditional knowledge has come to the rescue, the newspaper reported, with some elders collecting water from the mouth of the river and other people collecting the river ice itself, which is drinkable once melted.