A year later, volunteers help rebuild town

FILE - In this May 27, 2013 file photo released by the National Weather Service, ice and water are shown flooding homes and other buildings in Galena, Alaska. Several hundred people are estimated to have fled the community of Galena in Alaska's interior, where a river ice jam has caused major flooding, sending water washing over roads and submerging buildings. Hundreds of volunteers are helping rebuild Galena this summer, a year after the interior Alaska town was severely damaged by widespread spring flooding. In Galena, more than 200 homes were damaged or destroyed in the flooding, and about 300 residents were evacuated. A federal disaster was declared for the community of about 500 people 270 miles west of Fairbanks.(AP Photo/National Weather Service, Ed Plumb)

JUNEAU — Hundreds of volunteers are helping rebuild a town in Alaska’s interior this summer where widespread flooding a year ago damaged or destroyed more than 200 homes.

The 11 houses in the town of Galena that Federal Emergency Management Agency volunteers from across the country are constructing will sit on stilts, APRN reported Monday.

Amid the destruction last spring, about 300 residents were evacuated from the community of about 500 people 270 miles west of Fairbanks. A federal disaster also was declared.

The flooding was caused by an ice jam on the Yukon River that backed water into the community, swamping areas expected to be safe. To qualify for disaster relief, houses must now be built above the high-water mark.

“Where I live, we build them up off the ground, but not on stilts like this,” said Doug Konetchy, a volunteer from North Carolina. Konetchy is participating through the Samaritan’s Purse organization, a charitable Christian group that helps with disaster relief throughout the country.

Galena resident Steve Settle is among those who qualified for one of the elevated FEMA houses. When completed, his new residence will be substantially higher than his old home, which basically was destroyed.

The frame of his replacement house sits on 25-foot pilings buried deep in the ground. The house also will be built to meet new cold-climate housing standards, with thicker walls and other features to make it airtight.

Settle, who’s lived in Galena for 33 years, said the flooding of the Yukon River last year was unlike anything he’s ever seen.

“It was just like a bathtub,” he said. “Pull the plug, and it just went out.”

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