Hurricane-force Winds Cause Extensive Damage in False Pass

April 7, 2011

False, Pass, AK – April 7, 2011 – A destructive storm sweeping through much of Alaska caused extensive damage in False Pass yesterday, including 100 mile-per-hour winds that collapsed buildings and blew part of a the roof off of one home. False Pass is located near the western tip of the Alaska Peninsula on Unimak Island.

According to False Pass City Clerk Chris Emrich, the public safety building roof was partially blown off and the medical clinic windows were blown out.  The doors to the ambulance bay were also halfway ripped off. Siding was torn off of the village public safety officer’s house. The wind flipped a 4-wheel vehicle over (used by the medical clinic staff) and pushed it about 30 feet down the road. Windows were blown out in several homes and in the housing duplex used by clinic staff.  Some buildings completely collapsed, including older vacant houses.

At about 2 p.m. yesterday, half of the roof was blown off of Siri Jonsson’s double-wide trailer home where she, her 65-year-old disabled mother, Lorraine, and three nephews are living. Her 10 year-old and two 16 year-old nephews were at school when it happened.

“My mother was home by herself. She heard all of the noise from the storm,” said Jonsson. “The VPSO told me that part of my roof had blown off. “

“I saw her roof fly across the road in a big 20 X 20 chunk of metal,” said VPSO Kenneth Parker.  “It was just flying through the sky like a kite. I don’t mean to sound comical,” but when I saw the roof go, I thought of the Wizard of Oz movie,” said Parker. “It was just… wow! I had only seen things like that on TV as a kid.”

“I ran home from work,” said Jonsson. “As I got here, it started raining. There’s a big gap in the roof where the house is joined together. There was rain throughout my house, from one end to the other.”

Jonsson said the first thing she did was turn off the electricity. Then she ran back to the school where she works as a teacher’s aide, and asked the principal to help her get her mother into the car. 

“After we got to the school, which is about 100 yards away, we saw pieces of the roof flying away,” said Jonsson. “I thought, really? What else could happen? Pieces of my roof are all over town.”

Jonsson and her family sought temporary shelter at the school last night. Right now, her house is unlivable.

“A lot of the houses here are double-wide trailers, so they were really rocking,” said False Pass School Principal Ward Walker. “Even the well-built school here was shaking. We had 55-gallon drums, crates and sheet metal blowing throughout the village.”

Ruth Hoblet and her two grandsons (ages 7 and 12) were worried about what damage the storm might cause, so they also spent the night at the school.

“It was just me and my two grandsons at home. I really didn’t want to stay here by myself with two young boys. It blew for so long and so hard. I just didn’t want things to come through my window and have to run out in the dark with the boys,” she said. 

Ruth’s husband, False Pass Mayor Tom Hoblet, was away from home, traveling in a friend’s fishing boat during the storm, heading to Cold Bay to pick up boat engine parts. He had planned to work on his boat afterward in King Cove. He left King Cove around noon yesterday. According to Ruth, it was nice weather going to Cold Bay. But traveling back to King Cove was another story. For several hours, she didn’t hear from her husband.

“I couldn’t do anything,” she said. “He was out of cell range. He knows what he’s doing. But I was just a tad worried because I couldn’t get in touch with my oldest son, who was in King Cove to see what time he (Tom Hoblet) left or where he was. So I just had to sit and wait,” she said.

“We were all really worried about him,” said Walker. “He had quite a ride.”

“He called me last night after he got to King Cove. It was good,” she said, relieved.

Hoblet says her home made it through the storm unscathed. But it was a different story for everything outside around of her house.

“It completely flattened my smokehouse. One of our skiffs was turned sideways and the other is completely upside down.  It blew my steam house right off its foundation.”

False Pass residents are hoping the worst is over. Nevertheless, warnings and advisories were in effect today for much of the state. NOAA predicted winds of 70 mph today in False Pass, tapering off to 65 mph tonight.

“Everything can be rebuilt,” said Parker. “It’s the people here that are most important.”

“My family is my number one priority,” said Jonsson. “Things that you acquire over your lifetime are material. We’ll figure it all out as we go. I’m just looking on the bright side. We’re all safe.”

The Aleutians East Borough is the municipal government encompassing the southwestern portion of the Alaska Peninsula and a number of the easternmost Aleutian Islands. It extends 300 miles along the eastern side of the Alaska Peninsula and includes the communities of Sand Point, Cold Bay, King Cove, False Pass, Akutan and Nelson Lagoon.