For some in the lower 48, it may seem like an extreme step. But Parnell says this is just Alaska.
In many ways, the state is no different than the rest of America. Most people buy their groceries at stores, and rely on a central grid for power and heat. But, unlike the rest of the lower 48, help isn’t a few miles away. When a fall storm cut off Nome from its final fuel supply last winter, a Russian tanker spent weeks breaking through thick ice to reach the remote town.
Weather isn’t the only thing that can wreak havoc in Alaska, where small planes are a preferred mode of transportation and the drive from Seattle to Juneau requires a ferry ride and 38 hours in a car. The state’s worst natural disaster was in 1964, when a magnitude-9.2 earthquake and resulting tsunami killed 131 people and disrupted electrical systems, water mains and communication lines in Anchorage and other cities.
“We have a different motivation to do this, because help is a long ways away,” said John Madden, Alaska’s emergency management director.
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