By Matthew Simon, Abby Hancock, Chris Klint and Rebecca Palsha
Channel 2 News
12:05 PM AKST, January 8, 2012
Cordova City officials say since record breaking snow has now turned into heavy rain, flooding and avalanches are now their major concern as a state of emergency continued in the Prince William Sound community Sunday.
More than 70 Alaska National Guardsmen arrived in Cordova Sunday evening. It is the first time in a "long time" where the state emergency operation center has requested the National Guard to assist a community in a disaster, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus at a press briefing Sunday.
"Wherever the incident commander sees the greatest need where our soldiers and our airmen can participate in helping out that community," said Katkus.
A barge with snow removal and melting equipment is also en route to the community and should arrive by midnight Sunday, according to John Madden, director of Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The latest avalanche happened Sunday afternoon just after 12:00. City officials say the slide came down at mile five, but did not cause damage or injuries. According to the city's Facebook page the Copper River Highway 5.5 mile loop road has reopened. Whitshed Road also remained open, while the Power Creek Highway into Davis Island remained closed.
All travel, city officials say, should be suspended unless it is an emergency. As a result of the changing weather travel conditions reportedly remained treacherous and avalanche dangers are imminent. Sunday morning flights to the area were cancelled.
The City of Cordova is operating an emergency command center at city hall. For more information or concerns about roof loads, damage or flooding residents are asked to call 907-424-6212.
Officials say teams continue working throughout Cordova to assess all situations.
While heavy snow has blanked the area all winter, the situation moved toward an emergency Thursday when Cordova and Valdez were buried in heavy snowfall, which left residents digging out of their homes and major roads in the region closed by avalanches.
State Department of Transportation spokesperson Meadow Bailey says the Richardson Highway was reopened to Valdez Saturday, but the Copper River Highway -- which was closed and reopened Friday -- continued to be closed Sunday afternoon, as heavy rain atop existing snowfall posed a major avalanche danger.
Bailey says while avalanche crews are tired but almost caught up with clearing current snow from the roads, they're also calling for more resources in equipment and manpower from across the state.
Cordova declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon following several weeks of heavy snowfall, after at least three structures -- two commercial buildings and a home -- had their roofs collapsed by snow. DOT is sending five additional people from across the state to help clear the town’s roads.
Meanwhile, National Weather Service officials said Thursday Valdez had 289.01 inches of snow this season -- and winter has just begun.
Valdez resident Kevin Kimber said he had to crawl out of his upstairs window to get out of the house.
“I woke up to have about 10 feet of snow in front of my door, so I had to crawl out of the house and I was finally able to get to my truck,” Kimber said.
Trish Stowe in Valdez said she stayed home Friday because of the snow.
“It’s just white,” Stowe said. “It’s hard to see the edges of the road or -- well, there are no edges. You just run into snow banks.”
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