A potlatch style celebration October 29 at the Crooked Creek Johnny John School gymnasium officially brought a successful end to the summer’s frantic construction of nine new homes to replace those lost in last spring’s devastating flood of the Kuskokwim River.
Helen Macar, who was pregnant during the record flood, held her newborn as she thanked everyone for her new home and tearfully recalled the ordeal of her life.
“I was five-months pregnant when the flood hit,” Macar said. “It was scary because I didn’t know what was going to happen to us. All we had was what we were wearing.”
Macar and others began running for higher ground when the river quickly rose to inundate their homes. Macar’s house was eventually ripped from its foundation when bulldozer sized blocks of ice rammed it and swept it 100 feet downstream.
The Kuskokwim Corporation, which immediately collaborated with The American Red Cross to send badly needed supplies via air charters, also quickly cleared the way to make land available for new homes.
Officials representing the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, FEMA, Donlin Gold, Samaritan’s Purse, The American Red Cross, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Kuspuk School District, AVCP, and various news agencies, to name a few, also came to the celebration to extend their congratulations to those responsible for the favorable outcome of the flood relief project.
The potlatch celebration concluded with agency representatives visiting the newly finished houses, which may represent a new standard for energy efficient homes that are built with 14-inch thick walls and energy efficient ratings of R-60. Designed by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center of Fairbanks, the houses are expected to use a miserly 120 gallons of heating fuel a year.