HAINES, Alaska (AP) — The search has been suspended for two people missing after a landslide in a small southeast Alaska community amid continued rain and the likelihood of additional slides, Alaska State Troopers said Monday.
Torrential rains prompted several landslides in the community last Wednesday. The largest, about 600 feet (183 meters) wide, took out four homes in the community of Haines.
David Simmons, 30, and Jenae Larson, 23, have been missing since the slide. Simmons, the interim executive director of the Haines Economic Development Corp., owned one of the homes that was destroyed. Larson, 23, a recent University of Idaho graduate who returned to her hometown to teach kindergarten, rented an apartment above Simmons’ garage.
Ground searchers sent to Haines with troopers left Monday, with one officer remaining to coordinate efforts with the borough police department and the incident command center.
The agency would reevaluate search efforts if new information or evidence is located, troopers said in a web posting.
More than four dozen families have evacuated because of the conditions, and motels in the city of about 2,500 are full. Borough officials have encouraged nearly a third of the town’s residents to pack essentials and be ready to move on a moment’s notice as weather conditions deteriorated and the risk of landslides remained high.
Up to 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of rain was expected Monday and warmer temperatures were expected to melt new snowpack. The combined runoff could further erode hillsides and cause additional avalanches, officials said.
The heavy rains have caused damage in at least 12 communities, prompting local officials to seek disaster recovery assistance, Alaska. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office said. Dunleavy declared a state of emergency Saturday for communities affected by the severe storm that led to landslides, flooded buildings and roads, downed trees and caused power outages.
In the southeast Alaska community of Ketchikan, some residents were evacuated over fears of a dam failure. The residents were permitted to return home Saturday night after rainfall slowed and the water level at Ketchikan Lakes fell to about 349 feet (106 meters). Some residents grabbed surf boards to enjoy the 3-foot surges.
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