'The wettest day ever': 4 of 6 missing people found safe; homes destroyed after record Alaska rainstorm

Jessica Flores, USA TODAY
·3 min read

Search and rescue efforts continued Thursday after a record-breaking rainstorm swept across Southeast Alaska, triggering mudslides and widespread flooding.

Four of the six people who went missing Wednesday after a mudslide in Haines have been found safe, State Troopers said Thursday.

Haines, a community of about 2,000 people located in the northern part of the Alaska Panhandle, has been among the most devastated cities. At least four homes have been destroyed in Haines, according to the Alaska Department of Public Safety.

Haines Mayor Douglas Olerud identified the two missing people as David Simmons and Jenae Larson. Simmons is a local economic development official whose home was destroyed. Larson was renting an apartment above Simmons' garage.

On Twitter, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he plans to issue a disaster declaration.

"I have authorized Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe from the Department of Military & Veteran Affairs to declare a disaster for the Haines area," Dunleavy said. "A signed Disaster Declaration will be issued shortly. More resources & assistance are on the way for the people of Haines."

Multiple precipitation records were broken Tuesday across the region, including a single-day rainfall record from 1946, according to the National Weather Service in Juneau.

"[Tuesday] was the wettest day ever recorded at our weather stations at the airports of Skagway, Haines and in Juneau," Meteorologist Aaron Jacobs told USA TODAY, adding that some areas have seen 30 to 40 inches of snow.

The sun has set on 2020 in this Alaskan town: 'Polar night' brings 66 days of near-darkness in America's northernmost town.

The U.S. Coast Guard in Alaska dispatched a helicopter and boat to Haines after several reports of mudslides. Search and rescue efforts were suspended Wednesday night amid ongoing rains and set to resume in the morning.

Mayor Olerud declared a weather emergency early Wednesday after several roads were washed out, blocked or flooded.

Olerud told USA TODAY on Wednesday the rainfall has so far caused about "a few million dollars" worth of damage to roads and infrastructure.

"It's been a long day," Olerud tearfully said over the phone. "I've lived here my whole life except for going to college and working down South for a couple of years. This is the largest national disaster that I've seen in town."

Olerud said state and local crews have been working all day to prevent roads and homes from destruction. Residents have been pitching in with shovels and any equipment in their backyards, he said.

"When you live in a small community and everyone comes together and pitches in like that, it makes it a special place to live," he said.

A flash flood watch is in effect through Thursday evening for Haines, according to the NWS.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Southeast Alaska's 'wettest day ever' triggers flooding, mudslides