One of Anchorage's hardest hit neighborhoods still recovering

Published: Nov. 11, 2019 at 9:30 AM AKST
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Part 3 in our series "One Year Later: The Quake. The Aftermath. The Recovery. You can find the other stories here.

While the majority of Alaskans have the luxury of looking back at the magnitude 7.1 earthquake to reflect, for others, the quake is still front-and-center in their lives.

In Anchorage, the Sand Lake community saw some of the most significant earthquake damage. Twelve months later, Sand Lake is still on the mend with several neighborhoods rushing to make repairs as winter approaches and the construction season comes to an end.

Long-time resident, John Spielman is in the middle still repairs to his Sand Lake home. In early November, the soil around his home was still freshly turned from recent repairs to his foundation but the high demand faced by construction crews means that some work will remain unfinished until next Summer.

"My driveway ... I didn't get on the list in time," he said, "That will have to wait for next year."

Just one street over, Patti Bogan says her family is still camping out in their home. Most of their possessions have been boxed up and stored elsewhere as they await their turn for repairs.

"I wasn't going to leave my house. It's not like people that are in the path of a hurricane or a tornado," she told KTUU. "We're going to have it fixed and we're going to continue to live here. We've been in this house for 22 years."

Some of the homes which saw significant damage during the earthquake have taken additional hits in the months afterward.

In one neighborhood where a majority of homes were tagged as unstable, robberies have plagued vacant properties. While Anchorage Police Department only has one incident on record, one street, in particular, says they have dealt with multiple break-ins.

At one home, a note is posted that says the house has been robbed multiple times, and that nothing remains inside. Several residents refused to speak with KTUU about their path to recovery for fear of drawing additional crime to their neighborhood.

While the wide-spread demand has kept construction crews busy late into the year, the elongated process of receiving financial assistance from state and federal agencies has also delayed repairs for many homeowners. Anchorage Assembly Member Austin Quinn-Davidson and State Representative Matt Claman worked with the Sand Lake Community Council.

"I still have constituents that are working to make repairs and going through the FEMA process, " Quinn-Davidson said. "They've been faced with a pretty wild task, which is to move on in spite of a lot of damage and a lot of financial loss."

Thanks to those group efforts, FEMA has since altered its process to account for damage to foundations on a case by case basis. According to Claman, federal disaster assistance is offered for floods and fires far more often than earthquakes. Last November's shakeup has proven to be an eye-opening experience for those agencies as well.

"For many people, the whole amount of money available from FEMA, about $35,000, was being completely used upon the foundation work and it still didn't finish the work," Claman said.

While repairs have slowed with the arrival of winter, the state has seen a slow down in the disaster assistance process as well. Jeremy Zidek is a spokesperson with Alaska's Department of Emergency Management. Zidek says the state and federal assistance totaled out at around $110 million. FEMA provided around $26 million in individual household assistance, while the Small Business Administration provided around $83 million in low-interest disaster loans.

"There is still some earthquake activity taking place in case management but for the most part, most of the assistance for individuals and households has been delivered," Zidek said. "As for the damaged infrastructure - the public assistance as we like to call it - that process is really going to take another two to four years before we know the full cost of repairs to schools, roads, and other infrastructure."

Copyright 2019 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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