Surviving the storm: Alaskans tell hurricane stories

High water in the Houston, Texas, area. Photo courtesy Zulma Barranco of North Pole, Alaska.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaskans, past and present, who are in the Houston, Texas, area are telling stories of incredible weather and heartbreak over the plight of victims of Hurricane Harvey.

"I've grown up and seen some pretty crazy weather in Alaska – blizzards and storms," said Sam Flack, who was born in Kenny Lake and moved to Texas two years ago. "I worked in Prudhoe Bay for a number of years. The kind of rain and weather we've seen down here is unlike anything I've ever seen or imagined. It comes down in buckets."

Flack said he's been involved in rescue attempts of people in his neighborhood, who are stranded by high water.

Zulma Barranco, who lives in North Pole, is currently in the Houston area caring for her 85-year old mother, who is in poor health.

"I've never seen anything like this, and I just feel for the people who are displaced," said Barranco. "There are so many people that are displaced right now. The shelters are full."

Barranco said her family members in the Houston area are safe, but it continues to rain.

"For me, it's constant worry," said Barranco. "Right now, I know where my family is, and I know that my family is safe and dry. But my emotion extends to those people who are not. So many families without a house, without their basic necessities. It just breaks your heart."

Barranco said she's been amazed by the amount of rain. She said a bucket, in her family's backyard, has already measure 24-inches of rainfall and more is falling.

Alan Carvajal, a former Alaska State Trooper, is now in charge of security at a Texas National Guard post, near Houston. Carvajal said the disaster in Texas is a good reminder for Alaskans to be prepared for emergencies here.

"Always have a little cache (of food and water) of maybe a week or two – in that case of supply – in case you are cut off," he said. "Hopefully it doesn't happen, but it's always better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it."

More volunteers from Alaska are heading to texas to help with disaster relief efforts.

The Red Cross of Alaska said Monday afternoon it had already deployed one volunteer from Anchorage to Houston, with two more scheduled to leave from Anchorage Monday night and arrive in Austin early Tuesday morning. A fourth volunteer from Fairbanks is also slated to depart for Austin by Tuesday.

“Our hearts go out to the people affected by this catastrophic disaster in Texas,” said Tanguy Libbrecht, Red Cross of Alaska CEO.

Red Cross officials say if you would like to volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer to learn more about the many volunteer opportunities and how to submit a volunteer application.

The Red Cross of Alaska estimates it will take approximately two weeks to process volunteer applications, complete background checks, complete Red Cross training, and get new volunteers ready to deploy to Texas.

“To put things into perspective, we deployed about 200 volunteers to Hurricane Katrina,” said Libbrecht. “We are preparing for a volunteer response that could exceed Katrina.”



 
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