GALENA — Residents gradually are returning to the town of Galena, which was flooded in May by the Yukon River, and signs of the deluge are everywhere.
Despite progress, lakes still cover the baseball fields and other spots around the town of about 450 people. Towers of debris await disposal in furnaces, and a bumper crop of mosquitoes has hatched, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Electricity and cellphone service is available throughout the community, but water and sewer service is accessible only behind the levee surrounding Galena’s former Air Force station, the one part of town that stayed dry in the flood.
Most Galena residents evacuated during the flood. More than 100 of them are living in the dormitory of the Galena Interior Learning Academy, said Chad Fullner, with the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s response team. Also in the dorms are 54 workers from outside the village.
A group of mostly engineering students from Santa Clara University in California arrived Tuesday and is camped out on the lawn behind the dormitory. The students had been scheduled to come to Galena to assess energy costs. After the flood, they were invited to come and help assess damage.
Galena resident Victor Marshall loaded debris into an incinerator one day last week. The incinerators had burned 71 loads in the past 10 days, and a tower of debris remained to be burned. Marshall has seen plenty of ruined furniture he recognizes, including a set of desks from the health clinic that were in the pile waiting for incineration.
“I’m having my crew get rid of all the metal because that’s the biggest problem with this thing,” he said. “It gets too hot with metal. We found that out the hard way.”
The incinerator burns for 12 hours per day. It’s important to the cleanup effort because the quantity of debris exceeds the capacity of trucks to haul it out of town to the village dump. The dump was inaccessible because of a washed-out road in the days after the flood.
It was closed for another 48 hours this week while a crew moved part of the narrow dirt path farther way from the river bank.
Like 90 percent of the buildings in Galena, Marshall’s house was damaged in the flood. He’s now living on the home’s second story while working on drying out the first floor. He also owns the Yukon Inn, Galena’s only bar and restaurant. The restaurant is in old town, the worst-hit section of Galena, and Marshall was not optimistic about reopening it in the near future.
“The bar I’m just staying away from because that was all the way under,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to work. I’ve got to start over on that.”