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Icy Waters Flood Villages in Alaska; Wildfires in Areas of U.S.

Huge sheetsof ice are clogging the Kuskokwim River in Alaska, flooding villages and forcing residents to evacuate by air to the town of Bethel in southwest Alaska. The American Red Cross has disaster workers in the area and shelters open for those who have had to leave home.

More than sixty residents of Napaskiak were airlifted to Bethel. Earlier in the week, flooding hit the village of Kwethluk and more than 30 residents had to evacuate. The Red Cross flew disaster workers in to provide shelter but officials expect evacuees to be able to return home today. Both villages have declared disasters and local and regional groups, including the Red Cross, are managing the disaster response.

“We are prepared to stay as long as needed,” said Disaster Services Manager Melissa Logan. “As soon as we know what kind of damage the villages have sustained, we will know how long the shelter will be open for.”

The Red Cross is working closely with the State Emergency Operating Center and the National Weather Service, who has sent a plane to assess water levels and structural damage from the air. “If residents are unable to return to their homes tonight, we are expecting an influx of more than 50 overnight shelter residents,” Logan said.

Officials are also watching the Yukon and Kobuk rivers in the northwest, parts of which are still frozen.

WILDFIRES BREAK OUT ACROSS THE U.S. Meanwhile, multiple wildfires are burning across the country. Red Cross disaster workers are helping people in the affected areas and providing food and drinks for emergency responders.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported gusty winds are forecast across portions of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona today, which combined with low humidity, will produce critical fire weather. More than 200 new fires have been reported, including eight large, uncontained fires in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Michigan and Florida.

IF A WILDFIRE THREATENS Wildfires can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. The Red Cross has importantsteps people to follow that can lessen the threat of a wildfire. If a wildfire is burning near your neighborhood, back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to get out quickly. Listen to local radio and television stations for updated information, and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. These steps will help limit your exposure to smoke:

  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • Do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Avoid running the vacuum cleaner because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home.
  • If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider's advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.

More information about how to prepare should a wildfire threaten your community is available on the Red Cross web site.