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Alaska Town Endures Record Snowfall


The residents of Cordova, Alaska, are wondering how much more snow they can possibly handle. A state of emergency has been declared for the small fishing town on the edge of Prince William Sound.

Since the beginning of November, Cordova has seen about 15 feet of snow. And after 24 straight days of snowfall, the U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska National Guard arrived over the weekend to help dig the town out. The snow has collapsed roofs, and trapped some people inside their homes.

To hear more about the situation there, we've called Jennifer Gibbins, who's editor of the Cordova Times newspaper. We reached her at her home this morning.

Jennifer, good morning to you.


GREENE: Jennifer, I've certainly lived through blizzards and digging out from a couple feet of snow. But what you're dealing with, I don't think any of us can really imagine. I mean, can you tell us what Cordova looks like right now?

GIBBINS: Well, it just means everywhere you look, there's snow. And we've got snow piles that are 10 to 30 to 50 feet high. It's filling streets. It's filling alleys. It's covering houses. The snow pile that's in between my house and my neighbor's house, I walked over the top of it today. And as I was walking across it, the bottom of my feet were parallel with the peak of my roof.

GREENE: Were there times when you couldn't even get out your front door?

GIBBINS: Yeah. I, you know - like a lot of residents in town, I've had times when I couldn't get out. One day, I couldn't get down my steps, and I had to tunnel out underneath a tree to get out. And then a neighbor came down and helped me shovel my neighbor out.

GREENE: Wow. Well, I mean, if you're digging out one time after another, I mean, you're a newspaper editor, can you focus on anything else? Can you get any work done, or is it just shovel and think about snow?

GIBBINS: No. And that's really what the situation is here right now. It's just that every day, we are getting up to more snow. You know, one day I shoveled at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 o'clock, 5:30. And each time for at least an hour. And then I shoveled from 8:30 to 10 o'clock at night - only to wake up the next day and be snowed in again. We're just exhausted.

GREENE: And when you talk about digging out, one of the cruel facts I read about was that there was a shortage of snow shovels?

GIBBINS: Oh, good luck finding a snow shovel. In fact, I was in the hardware store yesterday, asking them how they were doing with that. Not only are they out of shovels, they couldn't find a supplier who could send them any shovels.

GREENE: And what do you do with all of this snow? I mean, is there a spot where they're moving the snow to try and clear out the town?

GIBBINS: That's one of the biggest problems we've had. There's no place to put it. I mean, if you're shoveling out in front of your house, the piles are so high that you can't fling the snow up high enough to get on the pile.

GREENE: Oh, wow.

GIBBINS: That was one of the reasons that we needed more help - more manpower and heavy dutier(ph) equipment that could really help us move this. But when you see an entire street filled two stories high with snow, you've got a problem.

GREENE: How much more snow do you think you can take?

GIBBINS: Oh, God. I don't really think I could take anymore snow. I mean, we're all just - we've had it. And I think that if we didn't have this assistance with the National Guard and with the Coast Guard, I don't really know what people would do. I mean, we're just, you know, we're done.

GREENE: Jennifer Gibbins is the editor of the Cordova Times in Cordova, Alaska.

Jennifer, best of luck to you and the entire community. Thanks so much for talking to us.

GIBBINS: OK. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.