Notes from the Landslide

islandinstitute

A book collecting writing produced on social media or local Sitka media in the course of the August 2015 landslides and recovery efforts.

Notes From The Landslide


Dawn Johnson

August 21 at 12:31pm

This town is amazing. Even in the most unexpected places people

are spreading love today. Came across this on my hike today...left it

there so someone else can receive a smile... #sitkastrong


Dedicated to the families of

Elmer & Ulises Díaz

and

William Stortz


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Foreword

Thanksgiving, 2015

By Peter Bradley

Like many people, I felt helpless in the face of the loss, uncertainty,

and devestation that the August landslides brought. I donated a

small amount of money to a couple of the funds, called the fire department

to see if I could help, and then resigned myself to waiting,

watching, listening.

All the same, I found something to be hopeful about; it became

clear to me that in the face of this tragedy, the community was

coming together - to pool resources, share knowledge, raise funds,

process emotions, share in mourning, offer reflections and memories,

and to give thanks.

I found it beautiful and inspiring that in a terrible and upsetting

week, the town responded to a shared sense of vulnerability and

pain with love and generosity. In the midst of a week where guile,

antagonism, and scorn were not in play, I was drawn to Sitka Chatters

- a facebook group with a few thousand local members - as a

microcosm of the spirit of the community.

Recognizing that memories can be short, and that Facebook tends

to be ephemeral (usually a good thing), I decided to collect some


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of what showed up on Sitka Chatters and in a few other places that

week. I’ve collected it here, organized it as best as I can, and left

a few notes here and there. I’ve also taken the liberty of including

some pieces from the Sitka Sentinel and Raven Radio, who - as always

- offered diligent and sensitive reporting throughout the week.

I’m thankful that in Sitka, every argument will have nine thousand

sides and every tragedy will have nine thousand hearts. My hope is

that - as we run into conflicts, as we try to collectively find answers

to difficult and divisive questions - we can remember the generosity,

kindness, and shared spirit of community that we saw in the

week of the landslide.


6

Four Missing In Sitka as Heavy Rain Triggers Landslide

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Wednesday, 19 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

EDITOR’S NOTE: After press time Tuesday the number of missing

in the Kramer Avenue landslide was reduced from four to three.

The names of the other two people missing in the slide were reported

as Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25.

Four people were reported missing today after heavy rains caused

a landslide on Kramer Avenue that buried a house that was under

construction.

City Building Official William Stortz, 62, and three people who

were working on the house when the landslide struck at around

9:40 a.m. remained missing at press time today. The names of the

others were not released.

The Kramer Avenue slide was one of several around Sitka following

an overnight downpour recorded 2.59 inches between midnight

and 10 a.m. today. A second major slide closed Sawmill Creek Road

at the old APC mill site.

City officials estimated 100 workers and volunteers responded to

the emergency, which included landslides, flooding, road closures


and evacuations of buildings and neighborhoods.

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“I would say this is definitely bigger than anything we’ve ever had in

Sitka,” Fire Chief Dave Miller said.

The city has asked Gov. Walker to declare a state of emergency in

Sitka.

The risk to rescue workers from the unstable debris at the Kramer

Avenue slide prevented immediate search efforts for the missing

men. At 2 p.m. today rescuers were still standing by, unable to dig

in the pile of earth and downed trees estimated at 20 to 25 feet

deep. The Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter to survey the slide

area.

“A couple of us walked the slide impact area where these people

were last seen, shouting for names of the people that were missing,

but due to the instability of the area we had to leave,” said City Administrator

Mark Gorman, who had gone to the area after the first

911 call came in.

Miller said rescue crews are concerned that there could be additional

slides above the area of the first one, which could put emergency

responders in harm’s way.

“Because it’s a slide area and it’s muddy as all get-out it’s still an

active slide area so we’re not digging and searching at this time. It’s

too dangerous,” Miller said.

The National Weather Service in Juneau said the threat of mud-


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slides will continue through the evening.

The missing people were reportedly working on a house, in the

final stage of construction, that was totally destroyed by the

Kramer Avenue slide. The city public information office gave

the address of the house as 410 Kramer Ave., owned by Christine

McGraw.

If the governor declares a state of emergency, more resources

will come to Sitka, Gorman said. He expects immediate action

on the request in Juneau.

The major slides were on Halibut Point Road, Kramer Avenue

and Sawmill Creek Road at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park,

said Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens. There was flooding in

several areas, and a large sinkhole was created in front of the

laundromat in the 900 block of HPR.

“Because of the heavy rains, we’ve had three major slides. The

slide on Kramer Avenue has taken out a house .... The slide on

Halibut Point Road is creating a bunch of flooding,” Stevens

told reporters this morning.

Sitka police received the 911 call reporting the Kramer Avenue

slide at 9:40 a.m. Within half an hour there were reports of the

slide at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park and along HPR near

Sandy Beach, along with reports of flooding and washouts from

clogged culverts throughout town. At 10:25 a.m. the fire hall

called in all engineers and volunteers.


9

Chris Harshey, a carpenter who was working at a house at 210

Kramer Ave., said, “All of a sudden, I heard crackling and crumbling,

and then the lights flickered.”

He said he went outside onto the front porch to see what was

happening and saw “a sea of large logs, mud, more logs and a

slurry of muddy debris.”

He watched the slide destroy the home about 200 yards above

him, and damage part of another house a little closer to him

before “taking off into the woods.”

He said he couldn’t tell if the slide would stop before reaching

him, or which direction to go to escape.

“Not knowing which way to go,” he stayed put, he said, adding

it was all over in four minutes.

The mudslide looked like online videos he had seen of slides

in other parts of the country. “All of a sudden it was real,” said

Harshey, who managed to video some of the slide on his own

iPhone 4.

Rodney Ady told the Sentinel he was jogging on the Cross Trail,

and came upon the Kramer Street slide about 20 minutes after it

occurred.

“I’ve never come across a scene like that before. I was in a state

of shock when I came across it,” Ady said.


10

The Sitka FAA Flight Service Station measured 2.59 inches of rainfall

between midnight last night and 10 a.m. today. The National

Weather Service said nearly 1.5 inches of rain fell in one three-hour

period this morning.

By the time the slides were first reported, the rain had faded away

to a heavy mist and finally stopped by late morning as search and

cleanup efforts continued.

Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt said neighborhoods above Sandy

Beach, which are below the Kramer Avenue slide, were evacuated,

and an aid station was set up in Grace Harbor Church for rescuers,

and families and friends of the missing people.

At the Gary Paxton Industrial Park, flooding and road damage

prompted the Silver Bay Seafoods plant to shut down and evacuate

the bunkhouses, said Silver Bay Seafoods CEO Richard Riggs. Operations

were expected to resume tonight.

There were no injuries. One of the walls of the administration

building was smashed by the debris from upland of the slide and

some windows were broken, but all seafood plant workers were

accounted for, Riggs said.

Industrial Park Director Garry White said “a significant amount of

mud and sticks and debris slammed into the building and busted

out some windows,” causing some structural damage.

“The good news on our end of the road is everyone’s accounted for

and all we have is property damage,” White said.


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Until it was cleared away, the slide had cut off road access to the

city’s hydroelectric plants.

Gorman said Sawmill Creek Road, which was closed at Whale

Park, was expected to be opened for emergency vehicles this

afternoon.

Reopening that road was the city’s second priority behind finding

the people missing on Kramer Avenue.

“We don’t have access to either hydro plant at this time, so that’s

a priority as well,” Gorman said. “We have to make sure our

utility grid is protected.”

As a precaution, the city removed private propane tanks from

the area near the sinkhole at the HPR laundromat.

Pumphouse alarms set off by the rain deluge were going off

throughout the morning, public works officials said.

Public access to Sitka National Historical Park, Indian River

Trail and Sawmill Creek Road were shut down during the first

stages of the slide and flooding emergency, but the park’s trails

were open again this afternoon. Additional trail damage was reported

near Heart Lake. The emergency also led city officials to

cancel two public meetings tonight. The Planning Commission

and the Citizens’ Task Force meetings will be rescheduled.

Miller said any new storm activity could make the situation

worse. The National Weather Service forecast calls for rain


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tonight and Wednesday, with a 50 percent chance of rain Wednesday

night and stretching into Thursday. A break in the weather is

forecast for Thursday night with sun expected Friday.

Gorman asked for community support for the missing and the

search and recovery efforts during the days ahead.

“This is going to be a tough time for Sitkans in the next few days,”

Gorman said. “Do what Sitkans do well and support your neighbors.”


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Samantha Cox

August 18 at 4:42pm

Please list below all homes that folks may evacuate to.

List your address and whether or not kids or pets are welcome.

Please delete your info as soon as your home is full. Thank you.

*those of you who are evacuating to hotels may private-message or

post on here to request funding for your stay. Lots of Sitkans are

messaging me who want to help with displaced locals”

********************************************

“*** Charteris has room.”

“** Lifesaver dr Kids/dogs welcome (no cats please). I can keep

your dog if it doesn’t have a plAce can probably do 2 dogs”

“**** Georgeson loop can take 3. Kids and pets as well.”

“*** peterson ave.”

“**** HPR. Have taken in 2 people, have room for one more person

if needed.”

“I so love this town. I’ve been in tears for a while now.”

“No room for people but willing to take up to 2 dogs.”

“**** HPR one private room can accommodate up to 3, kids welcome.

Queen bed with twin hide-a-bed sofa, full private bath, full

kitchen and laundry. Room available tonight and tomorrow no

charge.”


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“I have a room with a twin bed could fit two if someone is willing to

use a sleeping bag. **** HPR”

“I have two rooms with queen beds . *** Kaasda Heen Circle they

are both upstairs ... children are welcome .. but I have two cats so

probably no pets.”

“*** Marine st. we could take a family of 4-6 lots of floor space.”

“The Fly In Fish in has 3 rooms available we will put any family in

need in these rooms”

“Room available for one person or couple with no.pets *** Lillian

dr.”

“I have a big, flat back yard near downtown if anyone needs a place

to park their boats/ ATVs etc until you can get them home again.”

“**** SMC, one full size bed and a couch. Pet friendly, not child

proof though.”

“**** Edgecumbe dr apt B. I have a single hide a bed if someone

needs a place to stay. Or I can take the couch and a couple can take

my room. Sorry not pet friendly, I have two cats. give me a call or

text me. Oh and I have an army cot. Will be a tight fit but that is

available too. Or it can be borrowed.”

“I can stay with a friend so my whole house is open - one king size

bed and a couch...Pets and kids welcome **** HPR please call me if

anyone needs a place to stay!!!”

“Full size bed and roll away twin. Pet friendly *** Harvest way”


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“*** Granite Creek Road. I have 2 extra rooms, 2 children, but they

can sleep with my husband, &’ I tonight. &’ I have 1 little dog who

sleeps with us, &’ is well tempered. Anyone is welcome to stay with

us. Message me if yall need anything.”

“An empty room and a small couch available at *** Peterson lower

unit. No pets tho, sorry.”

“*** HPR upper appt spare bedroom and two couches not a lot but

anyone’s more than welcome it’s clean and warm pets welcome kids

welcome also”

“**** Georgeson Loop.. Have lots of floor space and a sectional,

plus one room with a queen bed! Pets and kids ok, we do have cats

and rabbits and kids.”

“If needed, we could probably host quite a few at Sitka Assembly of

God, 214 Kimsham St. We have a big kitchen, bathrooms, no showers

and lots of floor space. Kids are welcome but no pets. Contact

me directly. We have some air mattresses and sleeping bags too.”

“We can make room if there’s still a need for places to stay. Kids and

dogs welcome too. Our dog probably wouldn’t go for having a cat in

the house though. I’d like to know what the immediate needs are--

housing? Meals? Would like to help however I can.”

“**** HPR. (There is one set of stairs) Pets and children welcome,

we have two dogs though! There is no fenced yard. One private

room with full bathroom and the kitchen/dining room is right

across the hall! Also have large living room, with sectional couch...”

“I could help with pets who do well with small children and a cat.”


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“I have several rentals whose owners have offered their homes. Just

call and we’ll try to work you into a home.”

“*** Etolin Way, guest room available with trundle bed for two. No

pets please”

“Please message me if in need of a place to stay. Lots of room, extra

beds etc.”

“If family of missing is coming thru Juneau, I have a spare bedroom

with a full sized bed, near the airport and a possible ride depending

on the time to/from the airport. I do have a dog. I don’t always get

pms.”

“We have 2 bedrooms available 1 with a queen size bed and 1 with

a full and twin no animals please young children, teens and adults

are ok not really baby proofed though there is a full kitchen and 2

bathrooms downstairs please private message me if you are in need.

We live out SMC Rd”

“Posted elsewhere, but have a 6 ft high good sized dog enclosure

with a sturdy house available if needed for a big dog or dog family.

We can watch your furry friend as long as needed. Let me know.”

“One couch and one room available for a woman and one or two

children if needed.”

“*** Shotgun Alley Two rooms with queen beds, one with bunk

beds and a single. Plenty of bathrooms, family room. All ages welcome.

We have two large, friendly dogs. Private message me.”

“We have a spare bedroom too!”


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“I don’t have room for people, but can take dogs that are good with

other dogs (I have 2 labs)”

“near high school with queen sized bed. Couch available also.

Home already has 3dogs and a cat so more pets would be difficult.

PM me here.”

“Room available. Shower, etc. Pm me here.”

“We can offer pet care, kids clothing, and food.”

“I love my town!! This is what friends and neighbors do for those in

need!”

“We can take a person or two at the AmeriCorps house on Monastery

Street. We can’t take pets or children though. Message me if

you need to stay and I’ll sen the address.”

“People displaced, or traveling to Sitka to help; I have a spare room

w/ full sized bed, any ages welcome, pets fine, I have cat & birds.

Indian River subdiv’n, pm for details. No smoking inside.”

“The SAFV shelter has informed me that there is room at the shelter

for about 10 more women and children, extra counsellors on

hand, food and TV.”

“Have an outside pen for a big dog or dogs. Sturdy, dry house and

lots of love!”

“One bedroom furnished apartment - for professional rescue crew

available.”


18

“Our house is open to evacuees... *** Park Street. Furnished bedroom

with double bed. We also have a crib and pak’n’play, children

welcome. Possibly pets, no smoking.”

“The Totem Square Hotel would like to offer 3 rooms for any traveling

families of the missing, or any rescue personnel.”

“I would also like to offer meals to the immediate families at The

Westmark also.”

“My home is very small, but I can offer food , blankets and assistance

with pets for sure . I can also help with clean up if any is

needed”

“dios este con todos ustedes, me uno a su dolor desde aca, mex.

yo vivi en sitka hace unos años ..me duele lo ke estan pasando por

alla.”

“I just got back to town today and I have room at my home, for

people and pets, **** HPR”

“I have extra room, spacious living room, and all creatures welcome

in a very serene location. Message me.”

“Extra room, pets welcome, downtown. Message me.”

“Reading all these comments is making me cry way down here in

Florida... Makes me miss home all the more. Thank you for taking

care of each other and for proving that Sitka is full of wonderful

people.”


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Shanthee Acker

August 18 at 7:09pm

I am honestly amazed by the amount of love and compassion people

have for each other in this town. Seriously beautiful. So lucky to

live here.


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Geri Ness

August 18 at 12:38pm

I love this town and the people in it. It is a bit overwhelming seeing

all these offers to help. Sitkans are the best.


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Keith Perkins

August 18 at 11:37pm

“Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished

by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.” ~~ Unknown

~~~~

Tonight, I drove by the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department at

10:30pm, well well after a compassionate informational message by

SVFD Chief Dave Miller to the crowd of friends, and personal message

to the families of those missing four individuals........................

and saw a full parking lot and then some. Professional volunteers,

still meeting, still planning....for tomorrow.

It’s a heavy heart, as a dad, as I think of this moment. I spent my

afternoon and evening with so many friends......fellow friends of

two close brothers, adults like Ed Conway, John Wathen, and others

who were completely involved with these two brothers growing

up......these two missing souls who were immensely involved in my

son’s wedding - one a groomsman, the other completely involved

for the ride of Nicholaas’ moment - both spending inordinate

amounts of time on my couch the last several years....... It is truly

a heart breaking moment for all of these young adults.....and the

adults like Ed and John who “ran with them” in the world of athletics.........to

know that tonight - they remain missing........these

two smiling, loving life large, being all that they can be........kind


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of brothers. They are a match - these brothers. When it comes to

appreciating life......they are a match made from above.

Taking life for granted is something we never will take again, nor

should we ever.............yet, we hold out hope, because there is hope

to be had, in spite of the challenge of this moment.............there is

hope to be had. Yes, it is a sliver of hope within the incredibly horrific

moment that we are in....but hope it is.....and it’s worth hanging

on to......for these two and those other two souls, from this morning’s

moment. I know not what else to call it other than “wow.”

It’s hard to put into words what the moment is........this moment. To

hear the pain in Anthony and Nicholaas’ voices......to feel it.....and

to experience the pain in so many of these young adults.... --- life is

in front of all of them, not behind them..........and yet in this moment,

life has challenged them all - with this moment.

It was painful to listen to Dave Miller visit with the mom directly

and to take ownership of the decision to stop for the night.....a

painful one, given the near tears in his voice......to explain the “why”

and to be forthright and honest about the moment......and that is

life for all of us.......in anything we do, and want........ that there are

unexpected moments that affect us individually and affect us all.

I cannot, nor do I want to, imagine being in Chief Miller’s shoes

when he is making these decisions.......they impact all of my son’s

friends and they impact my sons - let alone these two that are

somewhere in there. We want to believe that there is hope........there


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is always hope.

And tonight, when I find myself emotionally worn out, tired from

being a dad and a friend to these good kids......from the emotions of

the day - I drove by the fire hall......and I saw a packed parking lot,

and know - there is a crowed firehall full of volunteers that are not

willing to give up yet and will risk their lives again tomorrow......

to find these four souls, including my sons’, and their good friends’

two incredible friends.

Hope.............it’s a good thing for the soul. Always.


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Vicki D’Amico

August 19 at 10:16am

Remember folks, community trauma can have an impact. For

myself, every time j hear another siren, I feel my nervous system

responding. If you need to vent, to talk, call a friend, call safv, take

care of yourselves. It’s ok and normal to have a wide gamut of feelings

and reactions as this progresses.

August 19 at 10:31am

Also, our children have big ears and pick up easily on stress. Reassure

them that they are safe, allow the sadness as u see fit, sometimes

extra time with board games or coloring will bring about a

sense of normalcy.


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Lily Herwald

August 19 at 1:53pm

Tonight at 6:00 pm Brave Heart Volunteers is hosting a space for

Sitkans,friends, and neighbors to stand together in community and

support during this difficult time. This will be held at Totem Square

Park, across from the Pioneer Home.


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Kimberly Smith

August 19 at 12:12pm

Dear Sitka,

It’s been a very somber 24 hours. I didn’t sleep well last night as I

am sure most of you could identify with. I couldn’t stop thinking

about the families of those who are missing and those who have

been displaced. Truly my heart is breaking for you all. It is true

what they say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

I have never been more proud to be a part of such an amazing

community! When I took food down to the fire hall last night I

passed many others doing the same thing. When I have checked

the status on face book I see so many offering their homes, money,

food, time, anything they can to help. It’s in these moments that we

define ourselves as a community; it’s in these moments that we can

truly make a difference. As a citizen I would like to say thank you to

all who have been so quick to assists in this heartbreaking tragedy.

Love is truly the answer and our little community is full of it! I love

you guys!


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Melissa McCrehin

August 19 at 6:19pm

I just want to make a big shout out to not only the police, fire, and

sar but to also the city and state (Zane Bacon Nick McGraw, Rod

Ellis, Steve Bell, Merill Rice, Nick Kepler and many more) personnel

that are also working long hours to help clean up the roads.

Thank you for all that you do.


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Kim Machado Crews

August 19 at 1:54pm

Saint Gregorys, will be offering mass tonight, Thursday and Friday

from 7 pm to 8 pm for all the community that has suffered through

this tragic event. All is welcomed. God Bless.


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Vienna L Vaden

August 19 at 10:18pm

This city is L O V E. The volunteers who are using PTO to be part

of an “operation” involving a diesel spill and multiple landslides and

the supervisors who are making allowances for volunteers to do

what they’ve been trained to do.......working side by side with city,

state and federal government employees. The families who have

opened their homes to displaced families and/or pets. The business’

and individuals who are baking and cooking for the folks at the

firehall and those at grace harbor. In the face of unbearable loss, we

are are a united in our efforts to support one another. I am so proud

of this community.

Vienna L Vaden

August 22 at 1:54pm

I walked thru the Firehall this morning. I was up with most of these

men last night until 3:00am assisting with the SAR operation for

the guy who jumped off the bridge. These same people were back

at the firehall at 8:00am. It’s been a busy busy week: a diesel spill,

multiple landslides, loss of life, one person still missing from the

landslides, car accidents and the usual EMT calls and finally a SAR

call for a missing jumper.

When you see someone from the firehall. Thank them!! I can’t

make gravy......but if I could I would bring Al Stevens a bucket full.

He is like the duracell battery that just keeps going and going. Chief

Miller was out early this morning as well after a full week of dealing

with the landslides.

The employees and volunteers of Sitka Fire Department are amazing

people who give and give tirelessly.


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Keith Perkins

August 20 at 12:31am

“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while,

so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.” ~~ Alex Tang

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A challenging time, we all know that. At the time I made my last

post, the crew was coming off the hilll to give room to the SAR

dogs at 8pm and those incredible dogs did their job almost immediately.

Sadly.........one of two brothers is home. Elmer was recovered. A

mother and father and the family, while devastated in the moment,

will find comfort in time, that he was brought home by these

incredible rescue workers. His sweetheart will find solace, in time,

knowing that the compassion of their friends drove them hard, in

friendship and wanting to find him, that got them there.......to bring

him home, for Kori and for the Diaz family.

The effort has ended this night and will start early in the morning

with the professionals and the SAR dogs. It’s believed that the dogs

immediately dialed into the possible location of the other two.

Thus, in the early morning, the excavators, the dump trucks, the

loaders.....will get after it, after the SAR dogs are given a chance to

further pinpoint probable location. It had to end tonight because of

the danger of the liquidity of that mud in the very location that they

were able to find and bring one home - they believe the other two

are in that same narrow area but they have to lower the height of

the mud to make it safe to get in there. Four teams are ready to go

in again - Elmer and Uli’s friends.......in support of the professionals

- at 9am once the SAR dogs and support staff have done their

job. And then, they will work.......they will bring Uli and William

home........

It’s a hard thing to be involved in - helping find your friend with the


slimmest of hopes..........and yet so many of these young adults have

banded together in this effort.....to be at the ready to help when

needed. Yet, they all were, and are, hungry to bring their friends

home. Resiliency.......the tears were hard tonight for all of us.....yet,

the tears also shed a light on understanding the importance of accomplishing

the mission - bring them home. Amazing bond - this

friendship among all these friends of my sons. So many of them

have spent many nights in my living room growing up and it is an

incredible sense of “family” to see them all pull together for their

friends......

I wish I had better news....I really do, to share with you. Yet, this is

an important thing to do to get to closure and they all see it. They

all are understanding it, through their tears......to work to accept

this moment.

I love my sons. I love their friends. I’m proud of them in such a

difficult moment for them, for the Diaz family, for the Stortz family,

for so many friends and extended family.....in how they have hung

in together.

If they can do this, band together, support each other.....and do this,

as painful as it is - to lift up their friends - in a tragic moment, that

is a good thing to see..........even through our tears, we will see Life

in a more clear view ........................again.

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Search For 3 Starts in Slide Aftermath

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Thursday, 20 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

Search and recovery efforts for three men lost in Tuesday’s Kramer

Avenue landslide were under way today despite continuing concerns

about the stability of the terrain in the slide area.

Efforts to remove the earth and log debris at the site where the men

were last seen began this afternoon, while a team of search and rescue

climbers accompanied geologists in inspecting the slide area to

assess its stability. In the debris field crews worked to remove logs

and material. A search dog team also began canvassing the area late

this afternoon.

City Administrator Mark Gorman said the recovery workers were

being “a little more aggressive” in removing the debris where a

house was buried by the debris.

“We’re working both sides of the slide,” Gorman said.

A witness to the 9:30 a.m. slide said he saw one of the missing men,

William Stortz, 62, in the area as the slide occurred.

“It is a very good idea of where he was last seen,” Gorman said.


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Stortz was working in his capacity as the city building official. The

two other victims, Elmer Diaz, 25, and Ulises Diaz, 26, were working

on the house, which was in the final stages of construction.

In a press conference this morning, Fire Department Chief Dave

Miller said low-hanging clouds were obscuring the view of the slide

area from the air as Coast Guard helicopter crews attempted to get

a read on the level of hazards in the search area, which is at the foot

of Harbor Mountain.

“We haven’t been able to see the top of the slide area because of the

clouds,” Miller said. “The Coast Guard has been flying nonstop up

there right now waiting for one cloud to break. So they’re going to

climb up there to look. We don’t know how far that is. That hill is

about 3,000 feet, give or take, and it looks like it goes a long way up

there, so they’re going to see.”

Three rescue climbers, along with a geologist from the Haines District

of the U.S. Forest Service and another geologist employed by

the state, have gone up the mountainside to inspect the area from

the top of the slide area, Miller said. The search for the missing men

was stalled because of concerns about the risk of further slides.

Miller told reporters he’d spoken with responders who worked on

the Oso landslide in Washington state last year about searching in

unstable areas. He said there was frustration about having to wait to

begin searching.

“I’ve been involved with the fire department – the Sitka Fire Department

– for 28 years in some form or another, and I think yes-


34

terday was one of the hardest days of my life,” Miller said. “I had

to talk to those family members and say, I’m so sorry. First for

what happened and then that we’re not allowing those teams to

go in and start looking for your family members.”

Last night a portion of the slide debris shifted approximately 10

more feet, officials said. As of this morning a dam of logs and

mud stacked 12 to 15 feet high marked the bottom of the slide

at the intersection of Jacobs Circle and Kramer Avenue. City

engineers, EMS crews and search and rescue volunteers remained

at the site developing a plan to search. As efforts began,

evacuation routes were marked and ambulances were posted in

the event of another slide.

Ken Fate, volunteer public information officer for the city emergency

response task force, said early efforts to remove debris

near the base of the site had begun but crews were working

cautiously until geologists determine the safety of the area. As

of press time today the geologists had started coming down the

mountain, but there was no word on what they had found.

As crews were climbing, additional work began to improve the

drainage of rain water trapped in the slide area.

“The latest word is that they are working to relieve some of the

water pressure that has built up at the end of the slide,” Fate

said. “They’re going to try to dig a trench to reroute some of the

runoff away from that area and into existing infrastructure in

hopes that that will help the neighborhood down below experience

less water running through those systems.”


35

Miller said water coming down the hillside remains a high concern

for crews on-site.

“The ground is super-saturated with water, still. Although it is

drying out now, it’s still real wet,” Miller said.

Officials said the mud slurry left by the slide has dried out in

the 24 hours since the slide. More than 2.5 inches of rain fell in

the 24 hours before the slide, but less than a tenth of an inch of

rain was recorded the rest of the day, Sitka Flight Service Station

said.

Miller said the water is draining away better than expected.

Earlier in the day crews were concerned about the hazard posed

by water.

“Draining water is really going pretty good naturally,” Miller

said. “The mud that was there was soupy yesterday, today it’s

drying out. It’s cracking like pudding left out.”

Miller estimated that approximately 25 homes have been evacuated

as a precaution below the slide area. Most of those homes

are in the Sand Dollar Drive neighborhood. City officials are

permitting residents to return to their homes briefly to collect

whatever possessions they need, but the area is expected to

remain unoccupied until more is known about the slide area.

Ariel Starbuck, who lives about a half-mile from the slide area

at 2168 HPR, said she and the rest of her family are anxious to


36

get back into her home, but she also wants to make sure it’s safe.

She’s been calling search authorities every three hours for news.

“My gut reaction is we’re going to be OK,” Starbuck said. “But I

would like to hear that from a geologist. ... I want to get a geologist’s

report, see what the stability is, and look at the drainage issue.”

She was supposed to close Thursday on the purchase of the house

she’s been renting, but the slide has given her pause and she wants

to make sure it’s safe. “I can’t buy a house I can’t live in,” she said.

The Kramer Avenue slide was one of six landslides around Sitka on

Tuesday. Another, at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park, closed Sawmill

Creek Road and heavy rains also caused a sinkhole the size of

a van in the 900 block of Halibut Point Road. No injuries have been

reported.

Initial reports were that four men were missing. Gorman said that

number was reduced to three after responders discovered that confusion

about one of the men’s names had led to the thought that a

fourth person was missing.

The National Weather Service is forecasting scattered showers

tonight with winds up to 15 miles per hour. A 50 percent chance

of rain is forecast for Thursday, and Friday is expected to be sunny

with rain beginning late Friday and early Saturday.

“We’re waiting for those two teams of people to tell us that it’s safe

to dig,” Miller said. “We have a limit. Friday it’s supposed to start

raining again so that could change everything.”


Fate said the public can help the dislocated families and emergency

workers by making food donations to the Salvation

Army.

37

The following items are most needed, he said: bread, lunch

meat, hamburger meat, rice, mixed vegetables, granola bars,

apples, oranges, Gatorade, bottled water, bags of chips, cans of

soda, brown bags, sandwich bags, and packets of mustard and

mayonnaise.

Starbuck said she has been overwhelmed and “touched” by the

scores of calls of support she has received, including offers of

clothing, food and a place to stay.

“It’s really overwhelming, it’s so awesome,” she said. “You know

Sitka is such a great community.”

At 6 p.m. tonight at Brave Heart Volunteers is “hosting a space

for Sitkans, friends and neighbors to stand together in community

and support in this difficult time.”


38

Keith Perkins

August 20 at 3:50pm

“Our attitude toward life, determines Life’s attitude toward us.” ~~

John N. Mitchell

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The Fabulous Diaz Brothers,”......a quiet comment by my son,

Anthony, as we ended yesterday, inside the Grace Harbor sanctuary

appreciating the photos at a makeship memorial for the Diaz brothers.......as

we quietly, arm in arm, thought of these two great friends

of his and his older brother, Nicholaas. He said it with a quiet smile,

reflecting on this incredible pair of brothers..............after a long

day of helping dig in the mud, helping bring one of them home......

Tears yes, difficult and emotional ones for so many - the families,

the loved ones, the friends, the extended circle of friends - all of

Sitka are friends in this moment......

And today......they were able to bring home Uli. A difficult, yet

inevitable moment this early afternoon, when Uli was located,

recovered, and brought home........ more tears, sorror, and reflective

thoughts by family, friends and the extensive group of volunteers...........

What is appreciated is how focused the overall Incident Command

was in gearing up “at the crack of dawn,” yet again, and having

2 teams of Uli and Elmer’s friends ready to go this morning, to

support that effort. The SAR dog teams had done their job well

and it was a focused area to locate and bring home Uli this early

afternoon.......I spent time down at the firehall and cannot begin to

explain my profound gratitude for the professional volunteers that

are always “at the ready,” to help when help is needed. Over 100

volunteers within the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department, SAR, EMS,

USCG, USFS, and related organizations were involved in this effort,

plus the well more than 50, heading toward 100 volunteer friends


of Uli and Elmer, ready to work in support - to bring their friend

home to family and loved ones.........

Two of three missing Sitkans, the Diaz Brothers are now home. The

effort continues to press on for William. The challenge of deep mud

and debris will make it a hard one, yet I see the resolve in these

volunteers - to bring them all home.........and some weather will hit

by tomorrow evening.

I think of all those nights of my sons, the Diaz Brothers, and that

circle of friends..........doing their thing, having fun, enjoying life.

“Did the Diaz Brothers ever doing anything quietly?” was a quietly,

smiling thought by one as they thought of their friends, Elmer and

Uli. Gregarious, Electric Personalities, Smiling, Intensely fun, Get-

After-It kinds of brothers. I personally think of all those evenings at

my place, watching them doing their thing with my sons......Just flat

fun. Just flat fun.......

It’s a sad day today, to bring home the second of the two “Fabulous

Diaz Brothers,” yet the quiet smile is that they are home now. Closure

is important and with this titanic effort by their friends, they

are now home - for the families and for the friends - they are home,

together. There is one more Sitkan to bring home and that effort

will continue.

For now - I quietly smile at that thought - that The Elmer and Uli

personalities were “loud and proud,” in how they approached living.

Always in fifth gear, always with smiles and a great attitude toward

life......and Life rewarded them with a great life. Always smiling,

always doing, always being in their gregarious, smiling way, “The

Fabulous Diaz Brothers.” Truly, their attitude toward life was an

incredible one.......

Cheers to Elmer and Uli for being incredible friends to my sons

and to never fearing life and always living it fully. Let’s bring William

home....

39


40

Sotera Perez

August 20 at 3:57pm

In a town the size of Sitka, it’s easy to begin to believe that I know

every last soul here. I don’t, though. I really only know what I call

the 400. It’s an arbitrary number, in a way, but also not really - it’s

about the number of people you can fit into Centennial Hall to

watch a Sitka Summer Music Festival concert or eat at the Raven

Radio Members Dinner. And it’s precisely those folks that I know.

They drink their coffee in my shop, they buy their books at Old

Harbor. And among them there are a few - maybe, say, 35, maybe as

high as 50 - who are the ones who present you with a can of freshly

smoked salmon from a jacket pocket, or who wade knee deep to

help you hitch a boat when you’ve never done it before. They pull

their worktrucks up so you can haul a mattress, feel comfortable

correcting your misbehaving child, call to tell you they like your

show, ask if you’ve read the latest. William Stortz is one of my 35.

I could set a clock by him. Every weekday morning for many, many

years, I’ve made him a double Americano at 7:30. When he worked

at SEARHC, I refilled his cup at 7:50. When he moved to the city,

I started doing it at 7:55. At 10, it was time for a chocolate chip

cookie or a peanut butter bar, a mocha if it was Friday, to celebrate

the end of the week. He is an integral part of my day. The last two

days, there’s been a missing tick in my internal clock. Some tiny but

important part of my life is absent.

I’m grateful for my 400 people - and for your 400, overlapping

mine, and for your neighbor’s, overlapping yours. These rippling

circles on our town pond make us a community that set us apart

from other places. What I know about William - apart from his

love of strong coffee and scones with nuts in them - is that his love

for his people, this rippling pond, was fierce and steady. Let’s throw

some rocks for him and make the ripples bigger, okay? Thanks, you

guys. I love you.


41

Turnie Wright

August 20 at 7:43am · Sitka, AK

As I have been watching the events of the past few days unfold and

the outpouring of support for our neighbours. I thought Boston

was strong after the bombings last year, Columbine high school

rose up to excellance after the shootings years ago. We Sitkans have

held a standard high above any adversity and will continue to do so.

We are Sitka and we are strong!


42

Greg Johnstone

August 20 at 9:25pm

I am totally amazed by the generosity of our community.

As the local Food Safety Officer, I have been in contact with the

Salvation Army, Fire Hall, and Grace Harbor. They all ask that you

contact them before taking food to them. They have had to dispose

of some food due to a lack of refrigeration or ways to keep the food

hot. The last thing we need on top of everything is food caused

illness.

Thank you all for everything you are doing. Questions? 747-8614


43

Nuliatchaiq Dawn

August 20 at 12:05pm

Thank you Sitka for your support during this time. The wonderful

ladies at Alaska Airlines Sitka Terminal were able to assist us in getting

7 family members toSitka. We have extended out to the Storz

family to get family by their side for support. Again thank you Sitka

and all the wonderful people who have reached out and donated

miles. You all are angels and a blessing to our community!#sitkastrong


44

Dwight Payton

August 20 at 10:19pm

I don’t follow Facebook much but the last few days I find my self

looking wondering why? I have kept quiet. Wednesday I drove thru

town . it was a numbing feeling very different. Tourist walking but

not the regular hustle and flow. Sitka is in pain . I pray for the missing.

I pray for healing. I pray for safety of the rescue crew. I don’t

know any of the missing but reading post its amazing how many

people are affected. I am blessed to live in such a wonderful loving

caring community. You all are in my prayers.


45

Jennifer Jarvis Barnette

August 21 at 8:06am

I have only lived here a year. I was a travel nurse here quite a few

times and just couldn’t leave after my last contract and took a

permanent position . The outpouring of help, love, care, and the

strength of the community pulling together after this tragedy has

AMAZED me. Thank and bless you all who are helping in every

aspect.

Prayers and thoughts to the families and friends of those who lost

their lives. Prayers also to those who are having a lot of anxiety and/

or having a difficult time sleeping since this occurred.


46

Sherry Sanchez

August 21 at 12:18pm

Sitka and it’s residence are really great for moral. I had a difficult

morning and stopped by highliner for a drink. Someone had

bought my drink. Thank you for making my day. I was even able to

smile through my stressors the rest of the morning. How wonderfully

thoughtful and unselfish. I loved it.


47

Naomi Bargmann

August 21 at 12:40pm · Sitka, AK

I just finished volunteering with the Salvation Army making lunches

for the rescue crews. It sounds like they need volunteers for

dinner service, but I’m not sure what time that would be. If you’re

interested, I would call them at 747-3358. I called this morning and

someone picked right up. There are some pretty amazing, generous,

kind-hearted people volunteering there and the amount of food

that has been donated so far is astounding. The outpouring of love,

compassion and selflessness is one of the many things that makes

this community so special. I moved here on a whim less than 3

years ago without a job (a leap of faith, if you will), and I’m so

thankful I did.


48

Michael Francis

August 21 at 7:04am

Whoever “paid it forward” at Highliner this morning. Thank you so

much! You are wonderful! My faith in humanity increases each day

I live in Sitka. How can so many amazing people happen to live in

one small place? BTW, this person paid forward $300.00 this morning

for all patrons of Highliner Coffee. You are my hero whoever

you are.


49

Koali Pontual Thorne

August 21 at 7:52pm

The loss of 3 beautiful Sitkans ...

Has left me at a loss for words this week ... Observing, feeling, praying,

pondering. How beautiful and awesome is life but also how

fleeting and fragile. All of us here by pure grace. No guarantees.

Any day could be our last. What matters most is simply the light

and love we are able to beam upon one another while we are here

together. It seems those guys were all really good at that.

I didn’t personally know William or the Diaz Brothers but as all Sitkans

know, we are interconnected by a matter of few degrees. Elmer

had just been to the spa a few weeks ago to receive a massage. His

girlfriend, Kori, is one of our regular beauties. I know their love

story from our chats and my heart breaks for her.

I have been observing in awe the generosity and goodness of the

people of Sitka offering up their support--in word and deed--but

have been unsure how to contribute and have hesitated to write

anything ... It feels so tragic, so sad, so big that I didn’t want to trivialize

it with a Facebook post.

But then again, I realize this is our tool and I am thankful for it. I

am thankful we can commune here. And I believe it makes a difference

to those closest to William, Elmer and Ulises to have all this

love beamed at them.

And so I would like to contribute by offering facials this Sunday, all

proceeds to go to their families. I will be offering the Express Facial

(60min) so I can do the most treatments that day. The treatment is

$85. If you would like to book one please call the spa (747-2638) on

Saturday between 10am-2pm to reserve your time.

Sending Love & Light, Koali


50

Fred Moe

August 20 at 7:56am

I have a gripe. I went to the fire hall to help. They took my name

and number along with hundreds of others. I would have done

some very dangerous shit in hopes of finding a survivor. I don’t

have bureaucracy and red tape holding me back. I went to the

Salvation Army and did what I could there. I do realize that I would

most likely make things worse on an unstable flurry of mud and

some of the toughest trees in the world. I don’t see a clear solution

to this problem so it is just a gripe. I know Sallys and Grace harbor

church could use donations and there is a fundraiser that I will

post.

Beth Shaddock

August 20 at 8:01am

It’s really hard to feel helpless. Just keep in mind that charging

in and then getting in trouble puts other lives at risk. For

better or worse, the go slow pace of the rescue workers is a

necessary action to ensure that other lives are not put at risk.

Those with the necessary expertise and skills to help ARE

helping. Doing ‘dangerous shit’ only distracts them from the

task at hand.

Daizey Conley

August 20 at 8:08am

I am not able to help and I feel helpless. I have been praying

for the safety of everyone.


51

Shanna Vetter Tadic

August 20 at 8:08am

Well said Beth. It is so hard not to help. Space up on Kramer

is limited. Even some of those rescue workers/emergency

responders are standing by for periods of time while the excavator

is working or other decisions are being made. Clean

up and recovery of the missing will just take time. And that

is hard, but necessary.

Beth Shaddock

August 20 at 8:14am

I’m glad that your head led your heart, Fred. Talking about

it helps, so does knowing that you’re not the only one who

feels frustrated or helpless or even scared right now. Keep

talking, keep griping. Even though it might feel pointless,

even small actions like expressing how you feel are helpful

because it allows other people to open up and talk about

how they’re feeling too.

Toby Marlow

August 20 at 8:21am

I know the feeling I’m a timber cutter out of Oregon have a

lot of experience with situations like that would have loved

to go help out sometimes sacrifices should be made in situations

like this I really hope they get in their soon and give

those family’s some closure thanks for the post I understand

your frustration I to would get pretty dirty on this


52

Erin Keenan

August 20 at 8:39am

It is a tough feeling Fred of not being able to help right now

at this very moment, but you did the right thing by going

to the next place where you could help. I think everyone is

feeling the same way wanting to help/feeling unable to help.

Thank you for posting of the other fundraisers, because for

me ( a person without physical strength or skills) I can only

donate and offer a place to stay. Lots of prayers to everyone.

And if you do go out to help stay safe.

Fred Moe

August 20 at 8:43am

I can see the top of the slide from where I am at. I could

hike up there, but then what? I also see a good, forked creek

coming down that slide. Hope nobody else gets hurt and if

those people buried have an air pocket and water they could

be alive.

Kate Croft

August 20 at 8:48am

I am a team member and didn’t get deployed yesterday. Try

not to feel bad about it. The names and numbers may still

get called. There are a lot of people who want to help. That is

what I love about this town. Thank you for your attempt to

help. They may need you later.


53

Kimberly Smith

August 20 at 8:50am

Fred, you put into words what I feel in my heart. I know that

if our hearts could lead all of Sitka would be out there digging.

But for now the thought will have to count I suppose.

Lord knows I feel so helpless and wish I could do more than

what I am.

Lisa Den Herder Zbylski

August 20 at 9:14am

For those of us who grew up in Sitka and now live out of

state, we feel pretty helpless too...all we can do is sit by and

wait for updates on here

Kate Croft

August 20 at 10:00am

Going cautiously is smart. Running in will get people killed.

A dead hero is no help. It breaks everyone’s heart. The Fire

hall and Coast Guard and SAR and police...everyone is doing

their best. Don’t be angry. We have to work together and

SAFELY.


54

Kathy Ingallinera

August 20 at 10:05am

I have noticed an increase in the number of car accidents

and people getting pulled over by SPD in these past 3 days.

Don’t let your emotions take over your life. If you are too

upset to drive, stay off the road, talk with someone and try

to work it out before getting behind the wheel. Speeding and

doing crazy stuff will help no one.

Deborah Den Herder

August 20 at 10:10am

Thanks Kate and Kathy you are right. Two accidents this

morning. we are all emotional right now, and we ALL want

to help. I’m old enough with bad knees, so I knew I couldn’t

do much, but found a little way to help. I stopped by the fire

hall today. I know food is probably still pouring in (heard

they had two tables full of food yesterday), but maybe today

they won’t have as much, or tomorrow, or the day after, so

it might be a good time to help out then. Boy, maybe we

should bake some really good cookies for the folks at the fire

hall, or whatever we can do! I encourage everyone to fit in

with those in charge!


55

Fred Moe

August 20 at 10:12am

Well time to go unload a plane instead of pulling out survivors.

Life can be like an algebraic equation. One does a little

on one side and another on the other...Know what I mean?

Debbi J Bbrewer

August 20 at 11:40am

I agree with all of you. If you asked any of us. We would be

on top of that mountain 2 days ago. But the hill is still so

unstable. They did not want more people hurt. I think we

all want to give them anything and we feel so helpless down

here. We just have to give them what we can. Lots if love and

prayers! God bless the people of sitka

Beth Shaddock

August 20 at 12:31pm

One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the people

doing the rescuing are members of our community and they

are also frustrated by the slow progress and heartbroken by

the situation. They’re looking for friends, family members,

work colleagues, people their kids grew up with. There are

guys up there searching who days ago were running for

their lives.

Please don’t let your frustrations or grief about the situation

turn into emotions that could be construed to be anti those


56

carrying out rescue operations. We need those people to be

measured, safe and smart so that we do not end up grieving

more members of our community. For that, they need our

support not our criticism.

There are very valid reasons why they’re being cautious,

some of those reasons are hard to hear but they have to realistic

about safety for themselves and the rest of the community.

We don’t want to end up grieving more people than we

already are.

Fred Moe

August 20 at 7:13pm

People have been asking what they can do to help us respond

to the flooding and mudslides in Sitka. If you are

in Sitka bring sandwich supplies, drinks, sandwich bags,

snacks and napkins over to the Corps. For people outside

of Sitka, a cash donation is the best way to go. We created a

link for you contribute directly to this effort.

Fred Moe

August 21 at 7:19am

Good morning Sitka Chatters,

I would like to share a few resources with all of you who are

helping or would like to help.

Feel free to add to these in the comments below.

If you are delivering food please call ahead to determine

where foods can go and what the best meals/items are.


*Grace Harbor (747-5706) and the Fire Department (747-

3233) accept hot foods. *The Salvation Army (747-3358)

accepts packaged foods.

*The Salvation Army is a great place to volunteer--they

can certainly use the help at times. Please call ahead before

showing up.

*Here is a list of some of the places you can donate (and

this is not comprehensive, feel free to add to this list in the

comments below):

So far there are several places to donate to.

I’ve been given these as suggestions:

Facebook.com/SitkaCVB

City of Sitka fundraiser

Greater Sitka legacy fund (501 c3)

Sitka Chatters Emergency Fund (either by the Go Fund Me

page or at First Bank)

There are accounts set up at ALPS as well as Wells Fargo.

Tomorrow night there will be a five-band concert benefit.

Show up, donate $20, and enjoy the show.

--

There are also cards to sign at Evergreen through tomorrow

for the Stortz and Diaz families. Once the funds are closed

out from the Sitka Chatters Emergency Fund, a portion will

go to each family in those cards. They will be delivered with

a “From Sitka and beyond.” If you donated, helped, sent out

positive thoughts/prayers etc, it would be lovely for you to

put your name on the cards (if you are not from Sitka I can

add your name as well as your city/state.)

Thank you all.

57


58

John Straley

August 21

A change in the weather here in Sitka. extraordinary rains for days,

but today there is a pause. Rescue workers swarm the scene of a

major mud slide and at the same time they try and dry their clothes

a bit as they eat their donated lunches outside in the Baptist Church

parking lot ...

... There was a whirlpool of deep water in the parking lot in front of

the laundromat. Kids on bikes with their forearms resting on the

handlebars were staring into the gyre as if it were a burning fire.

Its water was sucking chunks of pavement down into a hole in the

street and the kids did not move or say a word. Sirens blared and

police cars were tearing down the street. People walked aimlessly

down the street without their raincoats and stopped to talk with

one another oblivious of whether they had rain gear on or not. As I

drove north toward my house, I noticed rivulets of chocolate brown

mud spilling out onto the street and I saw the police Lieutenant

hugging a woman who appeared to be crying. The jailer, a friendly

man I know well, was directing traffic, standing in the rain without

a hat on, wearing only a windbreaker, getting soaked to the skin.

He had a stricken look on his face and did not wave back when I

passed. Something was terribly wrong.

The road to my house was closed. I went to the grocery store.

Muddy men in their work rain gear seem dazed. They talked to

clumps of people about a mudslide that may have taken out houses.

They had been told to leave the work sites. They left quickly.

People were dead. They didn’t know how many. Some City Officials

were dead. Some kids inside a house. The police wouldn’t let

anybody back up there. Too dangerous now. It was early. Stunned.

Worried. Unbelieving. The mountain we live under had liquified


59

then swallowed some houses, some people up. Really? Really? No

one could be sure, but this seemed to be happening.

Rumors. Phone calls. Speculations. Then official news reports on

the radio. Now two days later and they have found two bodies.

Only one house had been overwhelmed then crushed by a snapping

river of mud and trees. Two young men who had been dry walling

inside the house, were killed. Apparently it was their bodies that

have been found, but their names have not been made official, yet

we know it was them. Our son played football with the eldest and

knew his brother who was a year younger. The Diaz brothers. The

family lost two sons the same day.

The building inspector, was a friend of ours and a friend to many in

the community; a proud father of an accomplished daughter who is

to be married next month. The husband of a well known counselor

in our town. His death hits particularly hard in our circle. A good

guy, a helpful man, a sportsman and a man who liked to laugh.

I saw him ten days ago, (or was it two weeks? I can’t remember

and now and there is no one to ask) I was driving by the cafe on a

sunny day and he turned and smiled and as William Stortz stood

upright he waved at me high over his head, as if to say that it had

been too long since we had talked, and we needed to change that.

Tragedy wants to make philosophers out of most of us, but I will

resist that. Today I wrote notes to my friends who were working at

the site: friends of William’s and the Diaz brothers. They are tired

and sad. I wanted to tell them how much I appreciated how hard

they were working and how much I loved them .

And too, I told them when things settled down we should, without

fail, meet at the cafe for a cup of tea and spend some time together.


60

The rain stops.

Policemen do their hard jobs,

and tired workers dig.


61

Holly Renner

August 21 at 3:22pm

Sitka ANB/ANS hall is open an welcome to all! Jeanette is welcoming

everyone with a hug and a smile. It’s so comforting to have

a beacon like her smile emoticon the Red Cross is also located at

ANB hall today. Coffee, tea, food and company. Please stop by, ask

questions, eat, drink and be thankful for our amazing town. We’re

all so lucky to call Sitka home. The Red Cross is accepting donations

and if you call the ANC chapter and/or send a check you can

specify that your money go directly to Sitka.


62

New Rain Threatens Slide Recovery Effort

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Saturday, 22 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

Efforts to locate and recover the body of the third man missing in

Tuesday’s Kramer Avenue landslide continued today but was halted

late this afternoon as an approaching weather front threatened to

stop operations through the weekend.

Speaking from the scene, City Administrator Mark Gorman said

crews had stopped searching for William Stortz, 62, amid concerns

about conditions near the search area.

“As of now we’ve moved on from recovery. The search and rescue

dogs are returning to Juneau. We’ve exhausted looking on the site

we thought William would be found, and he was not found there,”

Gorman said. He added that crews had started searching another

area, before being forced to stop.

“There was another hopeful site down slope – the excavators

started excavating but it was just too soupy,” he said. “So the priority

now has moved into trying to create a drainage route to reduce

the possibility of a further slide.”

At a press conference this afternoon at the Fire Hall, Assistant

Fire Chief and Incident Commander Al Stevens said crews were

doing everything they could to locate Stortz while also bracing for

the heavy rain forecast for the weekend.

It was a downpour of 2.59 inches Tuesday morning that caused


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a mountainside above a new subdivision to break away, destroying

a house where two men were working, and burying Stortz, a city

worker who was inspecting the storm water drainage system.

The bodies of Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, were recovered

over the past two days and their names were officially released by

the Sitka Police Department this morning.

Conditions at the foot of the slide were so dangerous that attempts

to recover the victims did not start until more than 24 hours

after the slide, which struck at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Stevens said recovery operations for Stortz, along with the efforts

of work crews to prevent the tons of logs, mud and debris from

causing further damage, will probably be halted at 8 p.m., when the

rain is predicted.

“We’ve got a very small window and it’s closing rapidly on us

’cause you’ve heard what the weather report is,” Stevens said.

That report, given by incident meteorologist Joel Curtis of the

National Weather Service, calls for up to three inches of rain over

the weekend, beginning with light rain tonight.

“By Saturday evening it’s going to be pretty heavy ... I’m thinking

like another 1.3 inches – something like that,” Curtis said at the fire

hall news conference.

The added moisture will shut down recovery and debris removal

efforts for the weekend, but Curtis said the oncoming weather is expected

to be less damaging than Tuesday’s downpour of more than

2.5 inches of rain in six hours.

“The main difference, here, than the event that we had Tuesday

morning, is the fact that this rainfall will be spread out over time.

So we’re looking at 36-48 hours of amounts, say 2-3 inches or so,”

Curtis said. “The main thing to think about is this is spread out

over much longer time than our slide event.”


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That extra time should allow hillsides in Sitka, particularly

the debris field on Kramer Avenue, to shed water more effectively

so that drainage infrastructure won’t be overwhelmed,

said Department of Transportation Geologist Mitch McDonald.

“The hazard for landslides does exist, certainly,” he said.

“We’ve got new slides with open ground and we’ve got some

rainfall coming. I think the forecast that Joel gave us is good:

that that rain is not going to hit as intensely.”

Public works and contractors working under their supervision

have been working steadily to release the water trapped in

the Kramer Avenue debris field and drain it away safely, while

preparing for the runoff that will come with the next storm.

Curtis said this one could be accompanied by 40 mph winds.

While the evacuation orders for residents below the slide area

on Kramer Avenue, Sand Dollar Drive and Whale Watch Drive

have been lifted, McDonald said that he personally would have

concerns about staying in the area if the rains come as forecast

this weekend.

“I would stay away from the area if the rain intensity occurs

as it’s predicted – that’s what I personally would do,” McDonald

said.

Stevens said he will consider putting the evacuation order

back in place if sufficient work to prepare the area is not completed

by this evening.

“I’m going to re-evaluate that. That’s a very hard decision to

make,” Stevens said.

Shortly before press time it was announced that a voluntary

evacuation had been issued for Kramer Avenue, Sand Dollar

Drive, and Whale Watch Drive. The evacuation order remains

in effect for Jacobs Circle. In the release, Stevens said the up-


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coming weather was cause for concern.

“We cannot say what effect the rain will have on the already

weakened slide area. There is material remaining in the landslide

chute and in the slide on Kramer Avenue that could move

again,” Stevens said in the news release at 3:30 p.m. today. “Our

top priority is the safety of our residents and our responders.

The most prudent thing we can do is back off and see how the

slide area handles the incoming rains.”

The work on the slide area is primarily related to making

sure that water flowing through the debris field is entering the

city storm drain system, and is not being dammed by trees and

mud.

Referring to McDonald’s report, Stevens said: “We are working

at doing some sort of drainage to prevent any further slides.

We are going to get more slough-off off the mountain, we know

that. We are trying to protect what we have in place at that time.

We’re going to work on drainage. We still have a recovery effort

in place, but we have a very short window of opportunity to

complete these assignments.”

McDonald was among geologists who earlier this week

climbed to the top of the slide, which started at 1,400 feet up the

side of Harbor Mountain. Much of the focus of the inspection

dealt with the potential of future slides, with a detailed analysis

of the findings to come later. He did say, however, that it wasn’t

the first time this part of the mountainside has broken loose.

“The Kramer slide was in an existing slide path. The cause

of it hasn’t been the focus as much as what’s the likelihood of

another event coming down or what that might look like. As

we’ve monitored the scene over the past few days we’ve seen the

soil set up a little bit – which is good news. We’ve seen the water


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drain out – which is good news. To that end it seems as though it’s

re-establishing itself, somewhat.”

Stevens said all personnel and equipment, including the four

tracked excavators, will be pulled out by 8 p.m. or when the rain

starts.

“If the rains come sooner, I’m going to pull them out sooner.

We’re going to pull all equipment, all crews out. Obviously for safety

reasons,” he said.

Operations will resume when the weather allows, Stevens added.

Curtis said the next “drying out” is expected Monday or Tuesday.

As for the search for Stortz, four specially trained search dogs

were working in the area along with recovery teams.

Stevens said the dog teams have alerted in several different areas,

and the dig effort is not directed to a single location.

“We’re not just concentrated in one area, no. We’re working in

several different areas,” Stevens said.

He also gave an idea of why the search for the final victim must

move at a slow pace.

“As you can imagine, this is rather deep with mud, water, logs.

You don’t just come in, scoop a big chunk out and call it good. You

have to methodically and meticulously pull one piece out at a time.

We have spotters in there that have to look at what’s happening and

this is why it’s taken so long,” Stevens said.

Addressing other aspects of the storm damage recovery Stevens

said access to Blue Lake dam has been restored. Officials had been

unable to reach the dam in person because of landslides from the

Tuesday morning storm.

“The Blue Lake Road has also been looked at. As of 24 hours ago

that was an impassable road,” Stevens said. “It currently is a passable

road. However, we’re going to keep it closed to anyone else. Our


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primary goal was to open it up so we could get access to the

dam and the power house that was up there.”

A special meeting of the Assembly has been scheduled 8 p.m.

tonight at City Hall to vote on a request for disaster relief from

the Governor’s office. City officials are still working to have a

state of emergency declared that would allow for additional

state funding.


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Robert S. Baines

August 22 at 11:49am

In these tragic times, we need to take good care of ourselves in

order to take good care of others. Do what it takes to reduce the

amount of stress. Please take in healthy fluids and nutrition, exercise,

get a good night’s sleep, show gratitude about life and know we

live in one of the best towns in the world.

When my Mom passed away, I felt much better by thanking everyone

who was nice to Mom throughout the years and so nice to our

family after her passing.


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Debi Terry

August 22 at 9:25am

I was at the Landslide sight for several hours Thursday and was

witness to extreme professionalism and respect by all out there.

The men running the CATS took little if any breaks. They gently

removed mud and parts of trees in hopes of finding a man that was

a friend to many of them. Dogs and dog handlers climbed through

deep mud and over logs to tirelessly help in the search. EMS, SPD,

Fire fighters , Coasties, diligently observing and awaiting a chance

to help. I was offered rain pants to sit on, water, food, a rain coat

a phone charger , assistance walking in the mud and regular kind

glances. The rescue effort is being run in an amazingly efficient and

cooperative way. There is an unspoken awareness that this sight is

hallowed ground. These women and men are all examples of Sikans

doing much more than just their jobs.


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Becky Tennant

August 22 at 6:24am

I stopped at Evergreen Natural Foods to leave a donation and sign

the cards for the Families. Thank you Samantha Cox and all the

other Angels of Sitka that have shown the World why there is “No

Place like Our Home,Sitka.” The cards are almost full with small

prayers and best wishes. In this life of electronic communication,

where everyone (including me) can type a message that is received

and shared in the moment, it warms my heart to see pen on paper,

that can be held and kept close to a beating heart for years to come.

Bless You.


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Evadne Allott-Wright

August 22 at 9:08am

I have not posted anything during this difficult time, although I

have received many posts. As one of the Officers in charge of The

Salvation Army along with my husband Turnie Wright, I have once

again seen the most loving and supportive community iI have ever

worked in (and there has been many) get together and support each

other. i would like to thank everyone for their support and donations

We could not have done what we have done and will continue

to do without the support of such and amazing cummunity family.

My love and prayers continue for this above and beyond community.

THANK YOU.


72

Neighbor To Neighbor: Sitkans Rally In Emergency

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Saturday, 22 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

Immediately after Tuesday’s landslides, more than 100 Sitkans

signed up at the fire hall to volunteer. But not everyone reached for

chainsaws and work boots.

Many Sitkans reached instead for cooking spatulas or – in the

case of Joey Stamps – for a drum set and a cell phone.

“We were sitting in our living room after everything had went

down and we were just kind of talking about how we couldn’t really

help,” Stamps said. “We didn’t know how we could help. My roommate

Apollo Stone said we could put together a benefit concert and

so I immediately started talking to other musicians in town and got

a hold of The Pub to see if they would host it, and everybody was

on board right away.”

Hours after news Tuesday three people were missing in the slide

was announced, seven local bands and musicians were on board for

a benefit concert to be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Pub. It’s one of

a number of fundraisers taking place this weekend to support the

families affected by the landslide disaster and the search and recovery

efforts that followed.

Accounts have been set up at local banks to accept contributions

to aid the families of the three men who died, and residents who

have had to leave their homes during the emergency. Food and cash


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donations are being accepted by the Salvation Army, and online

auctions and fundraisers have also been started.

These efforts are on top of the informal ways that Sitkans are

pitching in by opening their homes to displaced families, and taking

food to the workers in the field.

Mayor Mim McConnell said she’s not surprised by the multitude

of events and efforts.

“Sitkans once again are rising to the occasion of meeting the

needs of their neighbors and families and friends, and it’s been

shown by all the events being scheduled to raise money and provide

support for people,” she said. “It’s a humbling thing to see and to

experience. It’s pretty awesome. It makes me proud of my community.”

“It’s further indication in how remarkable this community is,”

City Administrator Mark Gorman said. “It won’t stop giving until

the need is met.”

Nonprofits are putting on dinners, and volunteers not associated

with any organization are finding their own ways to contribute.

Joey Stamps plays drums in The Apollo Stone Band, but he’ll also

be helping out Los Shotgun Locos, which also signed up to play

Saturday night. They will be joined by Luke Abbott, Meathead MC,

Dirty Skeeze, SlackTide and The Lost Boys of Sitka.

Dave Jenks and his brothers, who own The Pub, were out of town

when Stamps approached them with the idea for the concert, but

that didn’t stop the plan from unfolding.

“(Event Coordinator) Shannon (Smallwood), Joey and I were

sending emails and texts and got the whole thing put together and

on Facebook in a matter of minutes,” Jenks said. “All the music is

going to be up to Joey and his coordination with everyone. We’re

just extremely happy that we have an asset at The Pub that can help


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with it.”

Donations will be taken at the door – The Pub is suggesting

$20 – with the proceeds going to support the families of those

who died in the landslide.

Stamps said he’s impressed by the way Sitka has responded to

the crisis, and he’s happy to be a part of the local support effort.

“Honestly, I feel that this is the only way I can help. I’m not a

rich man, by any means, but I’m pretty good at raising money

through concerts,” Stamps said.

The Salvation Army has been a point organization since the

crisis began on Tuesday, providing meals for the workers, including

police officers, search team members and other volunteers

at the Kramer Avenue slide area and at the fire hall.

Salvation Army Major Turnie Wright said the organization is

continuing to collect cash and food donations, including 10,000

pounds of frozen food donated by Lyle’s and Jensen’s Furniture.

“This has been constant,” Wright said. “Chips, granola bars,

soda – which is welcome because we’re running on fumes.”

The Salvation Army is still open to donations of items most

useful at the site, such as fresh fruit, protein and granola bars,

single serving pull-top canned items that can be eaten cold or

hot, and canned foods that can also replenish the Salvation

Army’s food bank.

Wright said canned good are preferable to baked goods, but

all donated items are accepted. He also made a pitch for knives,

forks and spoons for use at the soup kitchen.

Wright said his organization is happy to take care of the volunteers

because “half of the time they get forgotten about.” He

said the Salvation Army appreciates all the donations that have

come in.


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“The outpouring has been incredible,” Wright said. “We are

Sitka and we’re strong. We’re going to pull through.”

Bank accounts have been set up for various purposes including

ones at ALPS Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo Bank

for families.

Samantha Cox, an administrator of Sitka Chatters on facebook,

used her website to set up an online auction, and established

a GoFundMe fundraiser, “Sitka Chatters Emergency

Fund,” that will also receive the proceeds from the auction.

“It’s set up to help pay hotel bills, damage to homes, receipts

for food,” she said.

Money raised will be transferred to the Salvation Army in an

account set up for disaster relief. Any funds left over will be given

to the families of William Stortz and the Diaz brothers, Cox

said. As of 2 p.m. today, about $9,000 had been raised.

Cox also has seen an increase in the number of group members

in Sitka Chatters, from 3,400 to 4,000 since Tuesday.

Another internet fundraiser has been established for the Diaz

family through GoFundMe.com. More than $12,000 has been

raised in that account “to help the Diaz family with their expenses

in the upcoming weeks & months,” the site says.

A former fire hall volunteer currently living in Bellingham,

Wash., set up a CrowdRise.com fundraiser on the internet for

the Sitka Fire Department. Type in “Sitka -The Little City by the

Sea” to get there from the main CrowdRise web site.

Lisa Fisher-Roy trained as an EMT in Sitka in 2009 or 2010,

but is currently at Western Washington University. She said she

heard about the disaster in Sitka, was classmates with one of the

Diaz boys, and wanted to help.

“I know people in the fire department put their lives on the


76

line every day,” she said. “It’s really important they get taken care of

as well. ... I really wanted the funds to go to the Sitka Fire Department

and Sitka Mountain Rescue and disaster relief. I want to make

sure the fire department gets noticed and gets the funding they

need as well.”

The money will go directly into the fire department’s business

account, she said.

She said she got the idea for a crowd-source fundraiser from the

Red Cross, which has a few volunteers and workers helping out in

Sitka right now.

The American Red Cross has sent a staff member, who is working

with three volunteers from Sitka and one from Haines. They are set

up at Grace Harbor Church, where they are working with the Salvation

Army to provide meals to the emergency workers. So far most

resources have come from the community, not from outside, said

Andrew Bogar, a Red Cross disaster specialist from Juneau.

The Sitka Moose Lodge is hosting a dinner tonight and next

Friday with half the proceeds going to mudslide disaster relief.

The ribeye steak and baked potato meal will be held 6 to 9 p.m. on

both Fridays, open to members and invited guests. The cost is $20

per person, or $18 for 65 and up. The Moose will also have a 50-50

drawing both nights as a fundraiser for the same purpose.

“It’s just to help out anyone who needs help from the mudslide,”

said Suzette Burkhart, social quarters manager. “We know this is

hard for anyone who’s lost people in the landslide. We’re trying to

help out anyone who needs help.”


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Maite LRial

August 22 at 10:58am

A break from pain

Baby yoga at Kettleson Memorial Library right now.


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Bayview Restaurant and Pub

August 22 at 9:15am

Tentative schedule for tonight.

Bayview Restaurant and Pub

Tentative schedule for tomorrow night.

7:00 Luke Abbott

7:45 Meathead Mc

8:30 Slacktide

9:30 Los Shotgun Locos

10:30 Dirty Skeeze

11:30 Apollo Stone Band

12:30 Lost Boys

All donations will be given to the Stortz and Diaz families. Robert

Truman is going to start the night at the door at 6pm taking donations.

We’ll be going all night, local musicians putting on music,

putting back some pints, remembering, celebrating, consoling, and

raising funds.

Come for all of it, come for some it, or just swing by to drop off

cash. But swing by.


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Hailey Barger

August 23 at 12:49am

Alright folks, a HUGE thank you to those who came out to the

Benefit Concert tonight! I don’t have an exact number, but I hear

it was just under $9,000. You folks are inspiring and awesome, and

congratulations everyone. So proud to be a part of this community!


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Kettleson Memorial Library

August 23 at 11:16am ·

Kettleson Memorial Library and SAFV will run an art event for

children on Tuesday (Aug. 25) starting at 2:00 pm at the library.

The event will focus on using art as a healing tool, and it will follow

A Windows Between Worlds activities that help to heal communities

impacted by trauma. Adults are welcome to join for company,

conversation, light refreshments and a time of Mandala coloring.

Everybody is welcome. For more information, call the library at 747

8708


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Carla Whiteside at Sugar Chic

August 24 at 12:00am

Thank you so much Sitka! We raised over $1,000 this weekend for

the families effected by the landslides. I love our little town, we always

comes together in the time of need without question. It’s truly

a gift to witness such caring, selfless people all in one place. Also

seeing the tons of love and support outside of Sitka. Even my older

sister in San Diego who hasn’t lived here for years, Jessica McDevitt

was kind enough to donate supplies to Grace Harbor, that’s just one

example. It fills my heart to see people give back...it’s a glimmer of

light peering though such a devastatingly tragic event. Love you

little town with a big heart #sitkagivnglove#giveback


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Thomas Blair

August 24 at 7:41pm

4 short months ago I moved to a beautiful city I now call home, I’ve

seen the good the bad and the ugly of this gorgeous little piece of

heaven we all share and in just a matter of 7 days I’ve seen this town

torn to pieces over the tragedy of 3 horrible landslides which took 3

beautiful souls I’m told, and you all have still managed to come out

on top, this community is so amazing and so blessed to have one

another, no place quite like Sitka.


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Nancy Davis

August 24 at 9:25pm

My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to those families that lost a

loved one and my thanks to all the many many Sitkans

who have given food, clothes, a place to stay, money to go to those

who need it. To all the volunteers who have day after day been at

the church and fire hall to support any one needing comfort Also

those volunteers working at the site.

Those volunteers will have very sad and troubling issues to get

through as time goes on. They are going to need help from friends

and family

Those of us that have not been right there at the site or hugging

those that needed it, feel the pain of those gone or lost property, but

not what the volunteers or city employees

will feel as they remember the tough days they lived through.

As others have said, Sitka is special and I would never live any

where else.

Thank you every each and every one of you


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Kathryn Daum

August 24 at 3:01pm · Edited

HUGE shout out to Pet’s Choice Veterinary Hospital!

I called this morning to see if any money was needed to help pay

for the surgeries and care for the two dogs that were hurt in the

landslide, and was told that the bills were already covered between

random donations and the rest by the clinic themselves! Due to

confidentiality between the dogs families and the animal hospital,

I was understandably not given details of their condition, but I was

assured that the pups are doing good


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Karen Howard

August 24 at 10:26pm

I love living here in sitka... I was born and raised here. In the late

1970 I lived on the island and the house me and my family lived

in. It caught on fire and we lost everything. And I can remember

the whole town came together and donated tons of clothes for my

whole family. Even though it was over 35 years ago... I would just

like to say thank you to everyone that helped us out. And I thank

god we have such a good community. When something terrible

happens...we all become one big family. And that’s why I never want

to move...you can never find another town like ours.

Like Comment


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Cynthia Morrigan

August 24 at 11:37pm

We had a house fire several years ago as well, and it blew my mind

how quickly word spread, not in a gossipy way but in passing along

that there was a family in need and networking to meet those

needs.. there was so much generosity, from friends and strangers

alike, that i think my son and i ended up with even “more” clothes

and household goods than the amount of stuff we lost! we were

homeless for less than ten minutes before having several offers to

choose from.. and nobody would let me pay them back.. they just

shrugged it off and said “we’re sitka, it’s what we do!” it’s no wonder

so many of us are compelled to “pay it forward” when we get a

chance! that concept has been alive and well here long before the

book and movie.. it’s one of the reasons i too feel very blessed to

live here in spite of the risks mother nature may pose.. no place is

perfect, but it doesn’t get any better than sitka!


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Tamie Parker Song

August 24 at 6:56pm

I wish we could harness the incredible love and energy and kindness

and immense generosity in this community, and take this

show on the road. Imagine what world problems we could solve,

if the way people are acting in Sitka right now was happening on a

world-wide level.


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Search Resumes for Man Missing In Slide

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Monday, 24 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

After a weekend delay because of rain, the search for the body of

William Stortz resumed this morning in the debris left by last Tuesday’s

Kramer Avenue landslide.

Stortz was one of three men killed when a mountainside slope gave

way above a new subdivision above Halibut Point Road.

The bodies of Elmer Diaz, 26, and his brother Ulises Diaz, 25,

were recovered in the days after the slide, but continued recovery

efforts failed to locate Stortz by the time digging was halted Friday

evening.

Incident Commander Al Stevens put the search and recovery

efforts on hold at that time because of the forecast for heavy rains

starting that night and continuing over the weekend. Emergency

response officials had expected that it would be Tuesday before

work could be resumed, but today’s break in the weather allowed

an earlier start, said city clerk Sara Peterson, who is the designated

spokesperson for the recovery work.

Peterson said a search team, a search dog and at least three tracked


89

excavators started work early this morning, and were expected to

work continuously at least through Thursday evening, when a new

storm front is expected.

“We got a break in the weather, so we got an extra day,” Peterson

said. “They’re going to hit it hard the next few days because rains

from the typhoon in the Gulf of Alaska are supposed to hit here

Thursday evening.”

Besides the three fatalities, a house that was in the final stages of

construction was destroyed, along with other property including a

trailer of construction tools owned by contractor Pete Weiland.

Officials said the landslide started at 1,400 feet above sea level and

ran 1,000 feet down the mountainside above Kramer Avenue. After

burying the house at 410 Kramer Avenue, it deposited a 25-foot

high pile of denuded trees, rocks and mud in the street. The slide

was one of seven in Sitka caused by the Tuesday morning rainstorm

in which nearly 2.6 inches of rain fell in under six hours.

Over this past weekend Sitka received another two and a half inches

of rain, but no significant damage was reported as a result.

The difference in the effect of the two periods of nearly equal

amounts of rain was caused by the difference in length of time during

which the rain fell on the two occasions.

A NOAA chart on today’s front page shows the difference in the

outflow of Indian River after the Aug. 18 rain compared to this

weekend’s weather.


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About 50 searchers were at the debris field on Kramer Avenue

early this afternoon. Peterson said workers had cleared out

paths along both sides of the slide area to improve access and

safety in the search areas. A drainage ditch was dug on Friday

and Sunday to channel water to the right side of Kramer Avenue,

and relieve pressure on the debris field.

The voluntary evacuation notice that went into effect late last

week for Sand Dollar Drive, Whale Watch and south Kramer

Avenue was lifted this morning, Peterson said. A mandatory

evacuation notice for Jacobs Circle and the slide area on the

upper end of Kramer has remained in effect since last Tuesday.

The City and Borough Assembly met Friday evening to approve

an emergency ordinance declaring the mud slide as a “disaster

emergency.”

The ordinance will allow Sitka to seek emergency state assistance

through a number of departments. Gov. Walker also has

access to other emergency funding, city officials said.

Walker came to Sitka Wednesday to inspect the disaster site,

and gave the city administrator a commitment for state funding

to help the recovery effort.

City officials said today hundreds of thousands of dollars has

been spent so far on the emergency response, but no estimates

were out today on the cost of the damage.

“It’s too early to tell,” City Finance Director Jay Sweeney said.


91

“Every day that you’ve got operations going on out there,

contractors deployed, then those costs continue to increase. It’s

impossible to say, it depends on how long it goes.”

The six members of the Assembly who attended Friday night’s

emergency meeting voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance.

It asks the governor to declare a disaster emergency, and

“provide state assistance to the City and Borough of Sitka in

its response and recovery from this event to include the state’s

public assistance, individual assistance, Small Business Administration

and temporary housing as appropriate.”

The declaration of disaster is also needed to be eligible for

federal help, city officials said Friday. City staff has been working

since Tuesday on the ordinance, with guidance on specific

language from the governor’s office.

The ordinance calls attention to the damage in the “whereas”

sections of the ordinance.

“Whereas, the following conditions exist as a result of the disaster

emergency: significant damage to borough and state roads,

power, buildings and other infrastructure to be discovered;

actual damage or threats to several homes requiring evacuation,

alternative housing and sheltering of affected residences.

“Whereas, the unstable ground conditions coupled with the

unavailability of geology expertise to assess affected areas is

hampering body recovery and damage assessment processes; ...”


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City Administrator Mark Gorman said the areas of the debris field

where teams were concentrating their efforts on Friday had failed

to turn up any sign of the missing man.

Stortz was the city building official, and had gone to Kramer Avenue

Tuesday to inspect drainage in the wake of the rain deluge that

had occurred earlier in the morning.

Other areas of town affected by the storm may soon have access restored.

The Blue Lake hydro dam is accessible to city staff however

Blue Lake Road remains closed to the public, including pedestrians.

Green Lake Road washed out at multiple points during the storm

but Peterson said city officials expect it to be open for travel today.


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Sarah Pies Mahoskey

August 24 at 8:10pm

It’s impossible to express in words how grateful my husband and

I are for this extreme act of kindness and generosity. Cooper and

Stella are home with us and healing really well. They are surrounded

with love, getting non-stop attention and snuggles, and a plentiful

amount of doggie treats. Thank you to everyone in this beautiful

community for your support. Vicki, Marcus and all of the staff at

Pet’s Choice have given our dogs the best care we could ask for

and we will be forever grateful. An enormous amount of love and

thanks to Lance Jamison-Ewers, Kim Nekeferoff and the entire crew

that gave our dogs another chance, and enabled them to even make

it to Pet’s Choice in the first place. Thank you to each and every one

of you for your care and concern. Our hearts are with those families

who are grieving the loss of loved ones


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Jennifer A’Lyne Douglas

August 25 at 5:36am

As I lay here getting ready for bed I think of all the grief and heartache

the people from my hometown of Sitka are feeling. I did not

know the people who’s lives were sadly cut short, I dont know the

people who’s homes were destroyed, or those who have been displaced

from there homes. However I do know the Generosity, love,

compassion, dedication and devotion that is being freely given and

shared in the Community is what makes Sitka the beautiful place it

is. Thru this tragic event the outpouring of help, love and compassion

has fueled a fire that I hope will continue to spread thru out

Sitka and onto other communities, cities, states and continents! I

cannot express it with words how very proud I am to say that I am

from Sitka Alaska, and that my further actions in my life can only

reflect positively upon the beloved town I grew up in! God bless Sitka

Alaska! SITKA STRONG


95

Christine Golliver Silvanio

August 24 at 4:15pm · Edited

I would just like to say something.....I have been following this page

and I am thankful that the admin allows me to. I have read so much

courage and support from all of Sitka and want to say Thank you

for everyone and the support from this community. I visited just 2

weeks prior to this event happening while visiting family and when

I heard I was devastated. we had rented a home right off of HPR.

We enjoyed the beauty of of Sitka from the people that lives there

and of course the scenery. My mom (Tlingit) is from Sitka and To

be “home” is incredible to say the least. I wish all Sitkans well during

this time and moving forward. I hope they find Mr. Stortz and

give his family closure. I have a son who is the same age at the Diaz

brothers and relate to their loss as if it was my son. I just want to

tell you from an outsider from New Jersey that I am really proud of

you all and what you do for your community and life itself. Thanks

for reading. Sincerely, The Silvanio (Didrickson/Williams) family. I

wish I could do more.


96

Keith Perkins

August 24 at 10:17pm

“Love is not written on paper for paper can be erased. Nor can it

be etched on stone, for stone can be broken. But it is inscribed on a

heart and there it shall remain forever.” ~~ Anonymous

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I had the humble fortune to spend the evening with Mr. and Mrs.

Diaz at their home, with my sons, Kori, Danielle, KariMae, and

Kori’s bud Kelly from college. It was a quiet gathering of the Diaz

family, relatives, and their friends. I appreciated the opportunity to

spend some quality time with Mr. Diaz outside, in the sun, talking

as Dads. Mostly me listening to his reflections of fatherhood for

these two.

It struck me time and time again, as I listened to Mr. Diaz, at how

heavy the heart is, and will be for a while.....as we talked about his

two sons, my two sons, and fatherhood.......the things we do as

parents, as dads, to help them prepare for life.....and then, when

it is time, to let them go be their “selves” in growing up in life. I

appreciated listening to a similar perspective of being a dad to these

sets of brothers, his and mine. He talked about how he raised them

to have respect, to listen and learn, to get ready for life. And at the

same time, enjoy living life to its fullest with no regrets. To live it

such that there would be no looking back, no second guessing, just

appreciating how they lived life fully.

He looked down below us at my two sons and talked about the

friendship they had with his sons, about allllll those guys who his

sons hung out with. He quietly smiled at who Elmer and Uli were

and are - the 10 decibal video games, the laughing, arguing and

making up as brothers, the inseperable bond they had for each

other. He was overwhelmed with the community turning to help

him, his wife, and his family in this moment. I gently suggested to


him that it was a reflection of who his sons were and are....and a reflection

of how he and his wife, their mom - raised these two, such

that they touched so many corners of Sitka, with their electric, fun,

smiling personalities......

It was a thoughtful, reflective, quiet conversation he and I had.

Fatherhood. The thought I quoted fit this moment. Love cannot go

away from a parent’s, a dad’s view of his sons. In this moment of

loss, we both had the same sense - that love is truly in the heart and

mind and will never go away. Interestingly, we kept pointing to our

hearts during our reflective conversation. It truly is inscribed on

the heart and it truly will remain there forever. I enjoyed immensly

listening and talking with Mr. Diaz.......realizing and agreeing that

they will never be gone from him, nor my sons from me, as that

Love - who they are - is inscribed on the hearts forever.........as the

family, relatives, and friends showed up.......and we enjoyed the rest

of the evening with all......

Laughter, conversation, a few tears, lots of hugs, fun with little ones,

carried the evening.......and when it was time to go.....I enjoyed

that there were many handshakes, hugs, and it ended with a warm

embrace with Mom, Mrs. Diaz as she smiled and shared hugs with

Nicholaas and Anthony....and then as she hugged me and we looked

at these two sons of mine.....she said that they were her two sons

now.....and that we would share them, together......parents, always.

*warm sigh*..........it was a good evening at the Diaz home and I

suspect, as I have come to know them over time....I clearly see why

Elmer and Uli are Elmer and Uli.......they have a wonderful Mom

and Dad......Love inside the home.....something that lasts forever......

97


98

Jenny St John

August 24 at 12:57pm

UPDATE: We are all set on volunteers. Thank you all so much for

your support. I’m amazed how quickly this town came together to

help the Stortz family. If for some reason we need more volunteers I

will let Sitka Chatters know.

If anyone is willing and able to help the search efforts for William

Stortz, we are in desperate need for road block volunteers. We need

volunteers from 8am until 8pm all week. We’d like people to take

4 hour shifts but we’re obviously flexible. We’d prefer 1 person to

write down names and times of anyone coming and going from the

road entrance as well as someone to radio that information to the

fire hall. No experience necessary. Please call me at 425-757-3152,

the fire hall at 966-5770 or stop by the fire hall and ask for Jenny St

John.


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Jenny St John

August 24 at 3:42pm

I’d like to thank Kenny’s Wok for donating lunch to the search

and rescue volunteers today. I know everyone appreciates it when

they’re working such long hours and don’t have time to get away

from the site. If there are any other businesses or residents that

would like to donate food, drinks or even bug spray for our hardworking

volunteers please call me at 425-757-3152 or 966-5770

(fire hall). Thank you all so much!

Jenny St John

August 25 at 2:16pm

UPDATE: As most of you have already heard we were thankfully

able to recover William today. For that reason, the fire department

and Salvation Army are no longer taking food donations at this

time. I would like to thank all of the hardworking volunteers, workers

and donations we received over the past week. Your generosity

has been overwhelming and has not gone unnoticed. Should the

need for donations arise again, we’ll make sure to let the amazing

town of Sitka know. Thank you.

I’d like to thank Pizza Express for donating food for our workers/

volunteers today. We really appreciate their willingness to contribute

and do whatever they can to help make our day a little easier.

If you’d like to bring snack like items you’re welcome to drop them

by the fire hall. However, if you’d like to bring a meal of some kind

please call me so I can plan accordingly. We’d hate to have too much

food and have it go to waste. My direct line at the fire hall is 966-

5770 (if I don’t answer, call the main line at 747-3233 and ask for

me) and my cell # is 425-757-3152. Thank you all again for your

eagerness to help us in this time of need.


100

Samantha Cox

August 25 at 7:03am

Good morning Chatters,

As of today the Sitka Chatters Emergency Fund (between the Go

Fund Me and the First Bank account) is at $14,000.00!

I have had the honor of relinquishing some of your generously donated

funds to a few families who were evacuated.

If there are any other folks who would like to be reimbursed for

hotels or food, or who have other needs, please feel free to meet me

at Evergreen Natural Foods at any time between 10am and 6pm, or

private message me with any questions.

All who have requested funds have said the same, they are humbled

by the outpouring of love and feel unworthy to accept the funds.

To you who feel that way I want to say this. A portion of this money

was donated with folks just like you in mind. Giving is often easier

than receiving, but being able to receive is a HUGE gift to the giver.

The best way to say thank you is to accept what others have given.

Blessings to you all. Enjoy the sunshine today.

Samantha


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Cynthia Morrigan

August 25 at 3:02pm

Thank you for bringing up an important point! samantha is really

covering all the bases! having needed to be on the receiving end

of charity (when i was a young single mother in the aftermath of

a housefire), i can very much relate to feeling awkward or even

guilty/ashamed of receiving donations.. but the overwhelming

response was that to refuse would be to rob others of the blessing

of being able to be on the giving end! it truly has its own rewards!

when i dismayed that i did not know how i could ever repay anyone

but was determined to try, every single person told me they did not

wish to be paid back, that someday another sitka family would be

in need of help and i might be in a position to offer it, and the gift

of love is the gift that keeps on giving! PAY IT FORWARD has been

in action in sitka since as long as i can remember! please do accept

our love with no shame or embarrassment, and in time you too can

pay it forward smile emoticon


102

Elena Gustafson

August 25

This is what I believe--we are all inherently connected. Imagine a

field of stars, connected by strings of light. Some points and connections

burn brighter than others depending on how people reach

out and support those around them. Sitka is the brightest place I’ve

ever lived, despite the lack of sunshine. I felt connection before I

even moved there, when Sasha, a friend of a friend, reached out,

ecstatic I’d be moving to her hometown. Though school had taken

her from the island, she connected me with her friends and parents

and started my Sitka family early.

I met Libby and William shortly after arriving and of course they

were instantly welcoming. They are those people who ask how you

are in passing on the street and truly mean it, who smile and it

reaches all the way to their eyes. I remember fondly dinners at their

house, conversations about life paths, and making tamales as fellow

rain forest green chile connoisseurs. I remember their joy in sharing

berries from their garden and freshly-caught fish. I remember

their home being filled with easy laughter and smiles, so much light

pouring out from this beautiful family.

The last time I saw William was shortly before I moved, as our

paths crossed to/from the Backdoor. A short conversation, but I

remember William’s genuine congratulations and good luck for my

grad school path. A goodbye for now, a big smile, an encouragement

to make it back to Sitka after school.

Of all the small towns I’ve lived in, Sitka comes together in a unique

and powerful way. Over the past week since the landslides it’s been

beautiful to see this, though difficult to watch from afar because if

I was in Sitka I would be there, with the amazing responders and

engineers I’ve gotten to know as an EMT. I am not surprised that so


103

many Sitkans have been stepping up to volunteer with the recovery

crews who brought Elmer and Ulises home last week and continue

to search for William, or make food, or offer their homes to those

displaced, or provide other support. I am not surprised because I

received a small part of the light of this community as well after my

apartment fire. Not surprised, but deeply moved and honored that I

was able to call this community home.

I didn’t know the Diaz brothers, but William, and his family, were

constant points of light during my time in Sitka. Though it will in

no way lesson this tragedy for the Diaz family or for the Stortz’s, I

hope the light of this community helps to give them strength and

find moments of peace in the days and months to come. In the face

of such loss and darkness, know that there are so many of us thinking

of you, holding you in our hearts, and reaching out our light to

you.

Rest in peace William. You will be missed by so many.


104

Keith Perkins

August 25

The sunset tonight in Sitka.......seven days from a horrific moment,

a day of warm sun, the day Sitkans help bring our third friend

home to his family, the day that marks closure, the day that begins

a healing process for the community, and a day that ends with a

reflective sunset.......

I’ve not remembered such a seven day window in my life in this

community. Seven days ago, at this time, this community was devastated

in its heart. Shocked, stunned, and in tears......this community

was knocked backwards with the sudden and tragic efforts of

Mother Nature to display her awsome powers.......

I’ve not remembered such a loss that had the entirety of Sitka

hurting. The Stortz famliy, the Diaz family, the families that lost

everything, the families that became homeless......and all the extended

families and friends in this community whose hearts were

ripped.....and the rippling effect it had on everyone, was heartbreaking

to see. This one was close to home given the closeness of my

sons and the Diaz brothers. My own heart, like many, was wounded

with the loss of these two dynamic souls and even moreso to see

my own sons wounded in their very souls with this loss. To spend

time, an evening, and more, with Elmer and Uli’s parents.....and

have reflective conversations with them about their sons. To have

Mrs. Diaz hug both Nicholaas and Anthony, and then hug me only

to quietly smile and suggest that my two sons will be her two sons,

was a special way to end my yesterday.

With William home.......truly, every corner of Sitka can begin healing

together. I’ve had enough conversations around the community

to know that this loss has gone well beyond these hurting families.

Quiet reminders, as I drove out to capture this sunset tonight......

like seeing blankets piled high in the entryway of Grace Harbor


105

church, reminding me of the superhuman effort of that church

family to open up their doors to the families, the friends of the

missing, and this army of volunteers that helped bring Elmer, Uli,

and William home. Driving by the Firehall and remembering my

own drives late in the evening to “breathe”.....and seeing that firehall

parking lot packed everynight at 11pm.....knowing those dedicated

volunteers had been at it since the crack of dawn every day, yet they

were there heading toward midnight.......every day. Being given a

solemn opportunity to go to the site of this devastating slide, and

seeing the incredible destructive power of Mother Nature.....yet, to

see these dedicated professionals, volunteers, and those incredible

men on the steam shovels - compassionate, focused, driven workers,

many of whom had been up there every minute of every day -

driven to bring our three friends home. I called them all the “tip of

the sword” in this massive effort yet truly they were the “Compassionate

Hands,” searching for William, Elmer, and Uil......from the

digging by hand, to the incredible men in the steam shovels who

had such a gift with their compassionate feather touch and focus,

knowing they were searching for our friends.......

Under all that stress, out there, and at Grace Harbor, and at the

Incident Command Post......under all that focused stress.....it was

impressive to see this herculean effort, orchestrated by Chief Dave

Miller and Asst. Chief Al Stevens who had the challenging task of

keeping an eye on the big picture, with all these moving parts, to

make the best possible decisions for the good of the whole, while

staying focused on the mission to bring them home. Some decisions

were not popular yet they were good, calculated, correct

decisions every time......not an easy task to make when their hearts

wants to weigh in on these two - Dave Miller and Al Stevens. They

stayed the course.

The massive effort to help support it all.....the Sitkans walking in the

door at the firehall or at Grace Harbor or at the Salvation Army.....

Sitkans bringing in food.....commercial restaurants bringing in hot

meals, Sitkans walking in with anything asked for.........Was incredible.

Nothing short of incredible. And to see fundraising efforts kick

in with new ideas and social media paths. Was incredible.

As I sat with Mr. Diaz last night and listened....he was overwhelmed


106

by the community response, the response from around the state

for his sons and for William.......he said “he lives in a good town.” I

agree.

As I reflect on this horrific seven days of Sitka’s life.........I see the

good that has happened within this sad moment. I see Sitkans pulling

together to support Sitkans. I see two famililes overwhelmed by

the support on so many fronts to help bring their loved ones, our

loved ones.......home.

There will be tears this weekend......as we have the memorials for

our three friends. Friday for Elmer and Uli. Saturday for William.

We will be sad in the moment......yet, we will all have closure on this

seven day moment in Sitka’s history. The healing will begin. We will

smile again, down the road, when we think of William, Elmer, and

Uli. We will laught again at Elmer and Uli and things like the dizzy

sports thing at Moller Park.......and being able to smile at these

three, with smiles instead of tears.....heck, I think Uli is already

arguing at the fact that I didn’t put his name first in any of these

thoughts of William, Elmer,and him........such is the fun these kids

have ALL THE TIME. smile emoticon

For now, as I stared at tonight’s Sitka sunset, and had that wistful

song playing in my mind, “Havana” by Kenny G......I could only

think of how Elmer and Uli would be organizing yet another game

on a warm, sandy beach, arguing how to play a game...laughing and

getting on with it......with all their friends, my sons included, all the

way to sunset......... I’ll smile at that reflective thought as I enjoy that

this community is resilient. In time, Mr and Mrs Diaz will smile

about their sons. Libby will smile about her husband. My sons and

their friends will smile and laugh about Elmer and Uli. Hearts will

be whole and continue to have sons and a husband inside them

- and the love for these three will always be around as they are

inscribed on the hearts of the familes and on your hearts - they will

never be far away from those who loved them and befriended them.

After all, yet again, with a beautiful sunset that has a bit more of a

special meaning tonight, a reflective sunset .........It’s just this resilient

community I love.....and maybe this sunset is William, Elmer,

and Uli’s way of smiling at us all.........

It truly is Sitka being Sitka........


107

Landslide First Item At Assembly Meeting

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Wednesday, 26 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland

Sentinel Staff Writers

The first regular meeting of the City and Borough Assembly since

the Aug. 18 landslide disaster began Tuesday night with a remembrance

of the three men who died, and expressions of gratitude for

the work and sacrifice of the professional and volunteer responders.

The Assembly meeting took place only hours after the body of William

Stortz was recovered from the south side of the slide on Kramer

Avenue. The remains of the other two victims, brothers Elmer

Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, were found in the first days after the

slide, and the intensive search to locate Stortz’ body had continued

every day since then except for two days of delay caused by rain.

Stortz was the city building official, and died in the line of duty.

Work at the Kramer slide was focused not only on the search for

Stortz, but on preventing further damage from the thousands of

tons of unstable material left at the foot of the 1,000-foot slide.

“The people of Sitka have been flat amazing,” said Fire Chief Dave

Miller. “They have gone far and above what I ever thought would

have been done.”


108

He said the list of volunteers and workers – from those involved

in the search to those who provided food for them – would be too

long to mention.

“Just thanks,” the chief said. “The list would be too far, too long to

list.”

Miller said the last nine days had required an extra effort from his

crew of 10 employees and 100 volunteers.

Responding to the multiple rainstorm-related landslides was by far

the most serious of the emergency situations in the city since Aug.

14, when oil from the city diesel generation plant spilled into Sitka

Sound, and including the search this past weekend for a man, later

found dead, who jumped from the O’Connell Bridge.

Miller gave special recognition to Assistant Fire Chief Al Stevens,

the incident commander on the response to the Aug. 18 mudslides.

But, he added, that said it took the efforts of the whole community

to pull through the emergency.

“He’s just one of many,” the chief said of Stevens. “It wasn’t us that

did this – it was the whole community that did it. ... We may not

see eye to eye on everything, but when it comes down to it, this

community rocks.”

City Administrator Mark Gorman stood up at the Assembly table,

remarking that this is the custom in the Tlingit culture when you

address people you hold in the highest respect. (Gorman, a former

SEARHC vice president, was adopted 10 years ago into the Eagle


Kaagwaantaan clan in Klukwan.)

109

“I hold this community in highest regard,” he said. He told

stories of people experiencing tragedy reaching out to each

other, and the community working together. “The strength, the

courage, the humility of this community has been remarkable.”

He closed his comments by saying, “I stand before you this

evening with humility, with honor. You as a community have

been strong ... I’m humbled and privileged to have been able to

serve the community.”

City Attorney Robin Koutchak concluded the staff comments

by acknowledging the rank and file city employees who stepped

up and took on extra duties at city hall and elsewhere during

this past week. At the same time, they were dealing with the loss

of their colleague on the city staff.

“They held up under a lot of pressure,” Koutchak said. She

encouraged the public to be patient since many were doing “two

jobs at once.”

The Assembly then got on with business, taking on a full agenda

for a three-hour meeting.


110

Final Victim Recovered at Site of Landslide

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Wednesday, 26 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

Searchers recovered the body of William Stortz Tuesday afternoon,

one week after he was last seen in the path of a massive landslide.

The remains of the other two men killed in the Kramer Avenue

landslide were recovered in the days immediately after the Aug. 18

disaster.

Mayor Mim McConnell issued a statement Tuesday saying recovery

of the final victim will allow the families to move forward.

“I am very proud of the job the responders did, and the way the

entire community pulled together during this very sad time,” Mc-

Connell said. “We have found these men who were much loved and

brought some closure for their families.”

Stortz, 62, was the city building official, and was on Kramer Avenue

the morning of Aug. 18 to inspect the city drainage systems in the

wake of a torrential downpour earlier in the day.

Brothers Elmer Diaz, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, were working inside

a house under construction at 410 Kramer Ave. when the landslide


struck. The body of Elmer Diaz was recovered the day after the

slide, and Ulises’ on the next day.

111

City officials said Stortz was found on the southern end of the

landslide area, opposite the location of the Diaz brothers. Excavators,

multiple dog teams and dozens of searchers were employed

in looking for the missing men. The ongoing search for Stortz was

delayed at times because of concerns about the dangerous shifting

of the massive debris field.

“William was hard-working, intelligent, and a very kind man,” Mc-

Connell said in her statement. “Our family knew him and he was

well-respected throughout Sitka. William and the Diaz brothers

will be missed. One day the landslides will be cleaned up, but Sitka

will never be the same.”

The slides left a debris field that engineers estimated at 45,000 cubic

yards. Even as the body recovery was under way, engineers were directing

work to relieve the pressure of the water and mud slurry at

the toe of the slide to prevent damage to the other residential areas

just below the slide area.

With the last of the victims recovered, the emergency effort became

entirely focused on clearing the area and preventing further damage.

A large pump was flown in Tuesday to help drain the area, and

a battalion chief of the Seattle Fire Department, Thomas Richardson,

flew in to give guidance. Richardson worked on last year’s

slides at the town of Oso, Wash., which killed more than 40 people.

Richardson said that tragedy has a lot in common with what happened

in Sitka last week.


112

“It’s very similar. It’s déjà vu. Both the techniques that they’re

using and the conditions they’re encountering are almost identical

to what we had,” Richardson said.

He added that he doesn’t consider himself an expert, just someone

with experience that no one has until they’re forced into a

situation.

“Most people don’t have a lot of experience. We didn’t have

any experience responding to landslides,” he said. “Oso was by

far the biggest one that any of us had ever encountered. It was

around a square mile.”

It took around four months for all of the bodies to be recovered

from that slide, and Richardson said techniques used were similar

to those being used in Sitka, and that the cleanup efforts on

the Kramer Avenue slide are going well.

“I think they’ve been efficient with their operation from the

beginning,” he said.

City Clerk Sara Peterson, the designated spokesperson for the

city’s emergency effort, said operations now are focused entirely

on cleanup and repairing the damaged city infrastructure.

“We’re still in emergency recovery mode until Jacobs Circle

residents are able to get back into their houses,” Peterson said.

“We’re assessing the water and power issues for Jacobs Circle,

we’re trying to get those people back in their homes as soon as

possible.”


113

The slide cut off water and power to that neighborhood, which

is just off Kramer Avenue closer to Halibut Point Road.

A fire hydrant was knocked 10 feet down Kramer Avenue in the

slide, and the one-inch water line to the destroyed house at 410

Kramer Ave. was also broken, causing water to drain into the

debris field. Buggins said they are troubleshooting to discover

leaks, and making repairs.

“At 5:30 a.m. my guys came up and pressured-up the 16-inch

pipe past Jacobs Circle, and the hydrant is leaking,” Environmental

Superintendent Mark Buggins said today. “We have to

dig back, and find the valve to isolate the hydrant.”

It will take a couple of days just to reach the hydrant to make

repairs and restore water service to Jacobs Circle, Buggins said.

“We’re working on doing what we need to do to restore water

and power, and making sure the sanitary sewer will work,” he

said.

Buggins said tests run this afternoon confirmed that the sanitary

sewer is working as it should for the three homes on Jacobs

Circle.

“We don’t want to tell people they can go back, and five days

later they find out they have no sewer,” Buggins said.

The houses on Kramer Avenue and Jacobs Circle are still without

electrical power.


114

Backdoor Cafe

August 26th at 9:32pm

The Backdoor would like to donate all proceeds from sales on Saturday

the 29th of August to the family of William Stortz. William

was a regular at the Backdoor for many years. He was often found

at the cafe on Saturday mornings with his best friends. We know he

will be missed dearly. So please come down to the cafe on Saturday

morning, grab a coffee and share thoughts and stories of William.


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Clara Smith

August 27 at 1:47am

I would just like send out my sincerest and deepest condolences

to all of the Diaz and Stortz families and friends and to all those

affected by the landslides... I’m so sorry for your loss... there aren’t

any words or anything I can do to take away your pain and sorrow

and im very sorry for that I wish I could... but please I’d like you

all to know that if there is anything possible that I could do to help

in anyway big or small or even to be there for anyone to just talk

with...pray with...hug.. laugh or cry or to just be there with someone

to sit go for a walk or a drive...please know that I will be here

for you.... I personally experienced the hardships and know of the

feelings that come from landslides as to the loss of everything as

myself and my family were once misplaced and lost everything we

ever had in a landslide just a couple years back and believe me...it

hurts and the feeling of being lost or misplaced and the heartache

of knowing that in just a moments time everything was gone but

the clothes on our backs...We have a very wonderful and loving

community that comes together to help in times needed and for

that I am very greatful for as well... there is more that needed be

done after the generosity and help that the community provided...

I myself have had nothing but great experience working with red

cross and a few other places that are the next steps to getting back

on your feet..and its definately hard knowing where to go and who

can help...and most of all very hard to ask for help itself for many...I

know it was hard for myself... and its always good to reach out and

talk with people it really does help a lot with the healing process.

.. it will take time to adjust and overcome obstacles to get back on

your feet to feel good again yourself and feel like your finally on

track or that you finally have a place or finally things are coming

together. .. I know that I have just recently started feeling complete

again and that I’m finally to a point in life with myself that

im feeling better about what has happened and has accepted it and

find the strentgh to keep pushing and moving on... I know I was


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crushed inside...hurt...felt like everything was just taken away. ..and

to have my daughter and explain to her why everything was gone

and that we didn’t have a home or anything anymore was the worst

pain of it all...to try to be strong in front of her while holding back

the tears and heartache and to not show her the struggle and hurt

was hard and painful, but it was what I knew had to be done. The

only thing that I could do was be greatful that we were not hurt and

explain to her the importance of that and the importance of support

we had from the community, our family, friends and the dear

lord jesus for helping us and guiding us through our heartache and

situation and that in time we would be stronger and we would be

ok.... it would just take time. So we always try to give back in anyway

possible... we are always donating items back to the Salvation

Army and white e... they definitely do so much for our community

and help many families and I get her to come and help me when I

volunteer at the church as well... it helps us feel as if we are able to

help and give back to the community to help the circle go around...

its a sense of knowing and teaching our daughter that its great to

give and support our community and to help others in need and to

teach her to always be there to listen or to be there to lend a hand

a hug a smile or just to be there or to comfort them...because some

day some where someone will need someone... someone may need

help... and some might not have the strentgh or courage to ask for

help... because we once ourselves were in need... to be able to give

back and help if possible is the best feeling and knowing that even a

smile can change the day for anyone... so please... if there is anything...I

am here... again I am sorry for all your loss. .. I pray that

the dear Lord Jesus be with you all to comfort you, guide you and

give you all the strentgh and courage to move forward in life and

be with you all along the way and help with all of the obsticles that

may come.. AMEN...


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Counseling Is Offered In Wake Of Landslide

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Thursday, 27 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

The coming weeks and months will be a time to keep an eye on

yourself, as well as on your friends, family and neighbors, who may

be suffering disaster stress and grief from the Aug. 18 landslide,

mental health counselors said today.

A panel of five mental health professionals representing Youth

Advocates of Sitka, Sitka Counseling and SEARHC talked to a

group of reporters at the fire hall to discuss possible symptoms and

reactions to the disaster that took three lives, and also to list the

counseling services available.

“We’re going to go through a series of emotions and it’s going to

affect people differently, some more than others. And some people

won’t always reach out for help,” said Al Stevens, the assistant fire

chief and incident commander for the landslide response effort.

The important thing to know, the experts said, is that there are several

avenues available for help, and a trained group of professionals

are ready to listen.

Stevens said he wants to get the word out to the community “to


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allow people to confidentially get with these folks and get back to

normal life,” Stevens said.

Those needing help may call 747-3636, and ask for “Community

Response Counseling” for free counseling.

“What they can expect is a safe place in a confidential setting where

they can talk about what they need to get off their chest in the

presence of someone whose focus at that point in time is to listen to

them, seeking understanding and trying to be helpful and then aiding

that person in recognizing what can be helpful to that person,”

said John Raasch, clinical director of Youth Advocates of Sitka.

The city’s emergency response plan includes a mental health component,

which was added a few years ago.

“It’s all of us together, responding to the community as opposed

to our individual organizations responding,” said Amy Zanuzoski,

executive director of Sitka Counseling.

In response to the Aug. 18 slide, mental health organizations coordinated

to make sure counselors were on hand during and after

the disaster to talk to family members and friends of the victims, as

well as the searchers and rescue workers, and other responders who

have been volunteering long hours on the mission. The same people

may need additional help in the coming weeks and months, the

counseling panel said.

But others in the community – including those not connected to

the slide victims or the emergency itself – may also be reacting, and


it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for any of a number of symptoms.

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“Most weren’t involved in the immediate crisis but it’s part of an

environment of our community – everyone has heard of it,” said

Raasch. “Young people may be experiencing this a little bit differently

in that children, oftentimes, will experience what their

parents are experiencing but are unable to show or talk about

what they’re going through. And for parents and adults who

are guardians of children, it’s worth the effort to check in with

their children and see how they’re doing because they may have

heard about this through other people. They may be hearing

about it at the first day of school and being aware of their child’s

behavior and how they’re dealing with it is going to be helpful

to them.”

It’s also important to note the reactions to the incident may be

delayed – and long-lasting.

“It’s not something that comes and goes away,” said Carol Berge,

who works in human resources at Sitka Counseling.

“Maybe in a week, two weeks, three months, a year later, this is

still active,” Raasch said.

Physical reactions, strong negative feelings, difficulty in thinking

clearly, problematic or risky behaviors, social conflicts and

depression are among the common responses. Those affected

may also experience a reluctance to leave home or not return


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home, low energy and fatigue.

“One of the most common responses that we see in clinical

incidences is changes in all of the major functions,” said Marita

Bailey, clinical director at Sitka Counseling. “So in terms of

bodily sensations, things they may notice are changes in heart

rate, difficulty sleeping, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep,

difficulty thinking clearly. They may find they’re having a hard

time concentrating or problem solving. They may have a hard

time remembering things. They may also be engaging in risky

behaviors such as misuse of alcohol or prescription drugs, unnecessary

risk taking.”

Each call that comes in will be handled differently depending

on the background and needs of the caller, and all calls are

confidential, the counselors said. The person answering the line

may refer the caller to another agency for counseling.

Raasch encouraged residents to be aware of how they’re feeling

in the coming weeks; the panel said people shouldn’t hesitate to

call.

“One way to look at it is, if you’re experiencing something

and you’re not sure why, and you have a hunch that it might

have something to do with what you’re hearing about or even

the work you’ve done if you’re a responder, and it’s something

you’ve never experienced before and you think you don’t want

to handle it alone or you want to talk it out, confidential counseling

can do that for you,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you need to

have a problem.”


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“Knowing you need help and you’re asking for it is really a sign of

strength,” added Bailey.

The number 747-3636 is the regular office number at Sitka Counseling,

and will be answered during regular business hours. A free

counseling appointment for the caller will be scheduled when the

caller uses the phrase “Community Response Counseling.”


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William Stortz, 1953-2015: A Compelling, Complicated Heart

Published by Raven Radio on Thursday, 27 August 2015

By Robert Woolsey

William Stortz was the most complicated man many of us will ever

know. He was deep and steadfast and difficult to fathom, like a rock

formation that may seem strange or familiar depending on which

side of it you’re standing.

But complicated doesn’t mean contradictory. The chamber-music

junkie was never at odds with the motorhead; the city official did

not chafe at the salmon fisherman who stacked kings on the deck

of his skiff like cordwood. Walking down the street to grab a double-Americano

from the Back Door, William measured his universe

in long, deliberate strides.

William Stortz was born in Concordia, Kansas, on March 15, 1953,

and died on August 18 of this year in Sitka, Alaska. The community’s

building official, he was inspecting drainage in a new subdivision

during an early autumn downpour — the best possible time to

do that work. The landslide that caught William, along with Elmer

and Ulises Diaz, took more than their lives; it also swept away some

of our faith in the landscape and its power to sustain us. We will

now lay these men to rest, but rebuilding our relationship to this

place will need more time.

William’s life and character were shaped by less-than-ideal circumstances:

His mother, Dorothea, a nurse, died of cancer just two


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months before his high school graduation. William put his college

plans on hold to help out his dad, Marvin, who was Concordia’s

sheriff and magistrate. After two years, William no longer saw the

point of more academics. Instead, he joined his brother Steve in Ft.

Lauderdale and learned yacht restoration.

It’s not hard to imagine William making this decision. He read

extensively and had a huge intellect; any classroom might feel small

with him in it. He also was a remarkable conceptual thinker when

it came to construction. Erin Kitka, his colleague for 23 years in

Facilities Management at SEARHC, says William wouldn’t rip out

an old porch on a building unless he had the new material already

ordered “and practically measured and cut.” If you were to ask

William about his work he might just say, “I’m in the trades.” But

his hands and brain were harnessed in an out-of-the-ordinary way

that allowed him to rebuild an outboard from the pistons up while

a Schubert quintet pulsed through his ears.

After Florida, Steve and William returned to Kansas and rented

a farm together. William cared for his sister Patty’s kids while she

took advanced health care training. They were ages 6 and 9, and

William was about 22. He was married briefly during this time, to

Jean Ann Neeley.

In 1980 the brothers again jumped time zones and moved to Silverthorn,

Colorado, to ski and build houses. Three years later, William

and his dog, Josh, made the long drive to Fairbanks to visit friends.

Fairbanks had good snow for skiing, some opportunities in custom

furniture building that attracted William, and a young woman

named Libby Finesmith who attracted him even more. They met at

a party for (now Fairbanks mayor) Luke Hopkins in January, 1984,

and were married seven months later. Daughter Sasha joined the

family the following year.


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Libby introduced William to Brendan Kelly in Fairbanks. Kelly

is the chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and a former

science adviser to the White House, but at the time he was

doing research on seals for the University of Alaska. William

was working in the UAF maintenance shop. Kelly had spent

several springs unsuccessfully trying to capture and tag spotted

seals in arctic ice. His entire team was discouraged, and he

turned to William for help.

Kelly invited William to his research camps four times to

consider ways to trap the seals harmlessly. The solution finally

came, but it wasn’t on the ice. It was in a bathtub. “He called

when I was in Juneau — he had just jumped out of the shower,”

Kelly says. “I have this image of the guy standing naked at his

phone table!” William’s eureka moment was an idea for a new

net — one that proved instrumental in moving Kelly’s research

forward.

Contract work in Fairbanks eventually connected William to

the tribal health system, and in 1988 he landed a job in Sitka

as the project manager in Facilities Management at SEARHC.

He stayed 23 years.William approached life in Sitka with humility.

He apprenticed himself to Erin Kitka and his family and

became a serious hunter and fisherman. For over two decades,

every time he left the dock William notified Kitka of his float

plan. On the day he went missing, Libby called Erin just to be

sure that William had not intended to be away.

“We were like an old married couple,” Kitka says of William.

“Always fighting, always close.” Kitka is a few years younger,

and loved to test William’s limits. On their last alpine deer hunt

William’s heart started an irregular rhythm. “He went into a-fib


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and laid down in the muskeg, kicking his knees up to his chest,

trying to convert his heartbeat!” Eventually William recovered

and continued the climb. Kitka insisted on going back to town.

William relented, “but only after a few choice words.”

During his SEARHC years William became a civic leader. A

long volunteer gig at Raven Radio hosting Night Jazz morphed

into board membership at the station. When Newt Gingrich

pressed Congress to cut funding to public broadcasting 20 years

ago, William helped forge CoastAlaska, which allowed Southeast

Alaska’s five community stations to survive independently.

In 1998, Alascom put the Cable House up for sale and Raven

Radio was the logical buyer, but Sitka’s assembly split over

whether to grant the station a loan from the city’s economic development

fund. William, among others, conveyed the problem

to Sen. Ted Stevens — one of public radio’s greatest allies — and

after a few calls from the senator’s office, the Sitka assembly

magically unified overnight. The loan is long-since paid off, and

the beautifully-restored Cable House anchors the south end of

Lincoln Street.

William became Sitka’s building official in 2011. He was nine

months short of retirement when he went to inspect the culverts

on Kramer Avenue on August 18. It was his sharp attention

to detail that put him in the path of a disaster. Like many,

I have taken well-drawn, but ill-considered, building plans to

William in his office at city hall and watched him sigh deeply

and turn to his copy of the Uniform Building Code, like a rabbi

to the Torah. Beams may bend, but William would not. He

tolerated some scatterbrained ideas, but not at the peril of the

future occupant of a building. His signature on a permit was a

blessing, a gesture of faith in your ability to get it right.


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Sitka breathed a collective sigh of relief when William’s body was

found on the afternoon of August 25, one week after the slide took

him. We don’t care for mysteries when it comes to the people we

care about most. In William’s view, death is the final act in our

existence, the period at the end of a long and vibrant sentence. So

we’ll continue on the journey William shared for 62 years, but it

will be damned hard to pull away from the dock without him. We’re

feeling shaken and uncertain, and it may take some time lying on

the damp earth to restore our hearts to their normal rhythm.


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Elmer Diaz, Ulises Diaz: Brothers, Sons, Friends

Published by Sitka Sentinel on Friday, 28 August 2015

Elmer Diaz died in a landslide on August 18, 2015, in Sitka. He was

26 years old and a resident of Sitka.

He was born in French Camp, California (San Joaquin Valley), on

February 15, 1989. He moved to Sitka at age 4 with his parents and

siblings.

Elmer attended the Sitka School District and graduated from Sitka

High School in 2007. In high school he loved sports including

basketball, football, and baseball. He also participated in the high

school choir. His first trophy was received in Blatchley Middle

School basketball. In high school he was a two-time state champ in

baseball. He carried these skills into adulthood, playing City League

slow-pitch softball.

He was a proud 49ers fan, and his relentless passion for sports

brought friends together in ways that made the simple things

special. His smile strengthened the spirits of those around him and

provided a comfort that will be missed by many.

Elmer was loved by family, lifelong friends and his high school

sweetheart, Kori Lindstrom.


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Ulises Diaz died in a landslide on August 18, 2015, in Sitka. He was

born on July 9, 1990, in French Camp, California (San Joaquin Valley).

He had lived in Sitka since age 3. He attended the Sitka School

District and graduated from Sitka High School in 2008.

Ulises loved sports including basketball, baseball, and track. He

also participated in the high school choir.

Ulises, better known as “Uli”, was a friend to everybody. He had an

uncanny ability to bring people together, and will undoubtedly be

remembered for his infectious laugh, and loving spirit.

Ulises worked side by side with his older brother Elmer for Four

Points Painting. They were the quality of workers that any employer

would hope for.

The Diaz brothers were always together.

The Diaz brothers lived full lives, serving as an inspiration to many

of their peers. Whether they were hiking a mountain, or enjoying

drinks with their friends, it wasn’t work or a career that defined

their happiness, it was the here and now, and the people they

shared moments with. People couldn’t help but be pulled in by their

equally magnetic personalities.

They contributed to the community through their work in construction

around Southeast Alaska, being role models to younger

kids on the basketball court, and as reliable friends to so many of

the young adults in Sitka.


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Family was central in both their lives. This is evident in the

adoration they shared for their little brother Memito. Elmer and

Uli were not only brothers, but those closest to them considered

them to be true soulmates. The brothers spent nearly every

day together as children, as young adults, and will continue to

remain together for eternity.

Both brothers are survived by their parents Guillermo and

Lupita Diaz of Sitka; sister Nancy Navarrete of Escondidas

California; brother Memito Diaz of Sitka; two nieces, Cithlaly

Naylea and Aysha; and nephew Andy Navarrete of Escondido,

California.

They are also survived by many aunts, uncles and cousins in

California and Mexico


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Samantha Cox

August 28 at 3:37am

Thank you all. I am beyond flattered.

But I don’t feel that I am Sitka’s best choice for an Assembly member

and here is why.

What happened on Sitka Chatters this week had very little to do

with me. This is what’s called a grassroots movement--and why do

grassroots movements happen? Because passionate, strong, driven

people come together and create something amazing.

This week was about the people who worked long, grueling, wet

hours to find our men. This was about Sitkans who opened their

homes and arms to those who could not go home. It was about

the homeless who stepped up to volunteer. It was about 5,000 lbs

of food being delivered to Sitka. It was locals cooking around the

clock to feed workers and evacuees. It was about someone wanting

to make people smile and paying for 300 dollars worth of coffee. It

was about our emergency crew leaders barely sleeping. People all

over opened their wallets, even when they knew it was their last

dollar. It was about Sitkans coming together to be Sitka Strong.

Sitka Chatters was merely used as a catalyst for the movement and

that is so amazing.

So no, I wouldn’t serve you well making decisions for you. I do my

best when I can be here at home with my family, cheering all of you

incredible people on.

Remember to give yourselves credit where that credit is due. I am

so proud of this community. Thank you.


131

Gov Says Sitka Slide Official State Disaster

Published by the Sitka Sentinel on Monday, 31 August 2015

By Shannon Haugland and Tom Hesse

Sentinel Staff Writers

Gov. Walker made it official Friday, declaring Sitka’s Aug. 18 landslides

an official state disaster.

The declaration activates the state’s public assistance, individual

assistance and temporary housing programs for those directly

affected by the landslides, and aid to the city for the cost of its

response and recovery efforts, the governor’s office said in Friday’s

announcement.

Heavy rainfall caused landslides that killed three men and damaged

private and public property including the city’s roads and water,

sewer and electrical utilities. Threats of further slides caused the

city to evacuate homes near the Kramer Avenue neighborhood.

City Administrator Mark Gorman today said Friday’s announcement

from the governor’s office was a “tremendous relief.”

“We are very, very relieved and we very much appreciate the attention

and concern on the part of the governor to get this through,”

he said. “This will go a long way in terms of offsetting expenses

associated with the landslides. It’s really a tremendous relief from a


132

financial point of view.”

The governor issued this statement about his disaster declaration:

“Throughout this heartbreaking disaster, the strength of Sitka’s

community has prevailed. Emergency responders and volunteers

have been working diligently to protect the lives and property of

their friends and families, and the outpouring of assistance has

been unwavering. I am tremendously proud of the kindness and

unity Alaskans have displayed during this time of hardship. Sitka

will remain in our thoughts and prayers as we provide the city and

borough the assistance they need to recover.”

The state’s public assistance program covers emergency response

costs such as temporary and permanent repairs to “critical infrastructure.”

“The program is designed to help state, local and tribal governmental

entities, as well as certain private non-profit organizations,

restore infrastructure damaged by a specific event to pre-disaster

conditions,” the governor’s office said. “Funding will be available for

emergency protective measures, temporary and permanent repairs

to infrastructure, and technical and funding assistance needed to

repair or replace damaged facilities.”

The state’s Individual Assistance Individual and Family Grant program

is designed to provide financial help to individuals or families

for damages to a primary residence, primary transportation, essential

personal property and medical, funeral and dental needs, which


133

were a direct result of a declared disaster and for which other

assistance is either unavailable or inadequate.

Gorman said the state is sending a team next week to walk city

officials and individuals through procedures for financial help.

He said the city is ready, and has been keeping track of expenses

in the ways recommended by the state.

“They’ve been very helpful to us,” Gorman said.

Sitka Fire Department Assistant Chief Al Stevens, the incident

commander for the landslide emergency, said Friday marked

the final day of the “operations center” at the fire hall. “We’re

pretty much done,” he said. “We’ve demobilized everyone, including

me.”

This marks a “return to normalcy,” although “mounds and

mounds” of paperwork remain to be worked through, he said.

Stevens said he’s still calculating the number of workers and

volunteers who participated in the response, from fire hall and

police and other city employees, to the hundreds of volunteers

who manned roadblocks at Kramer Avenue or cooked meals, to

the state and federal workers from Sitka and out of town.

Stevens said he has 379 workers and volunteers in his count, but

expects that number will top 400 by the time he’s finished.

“We called in a lot of people, a lot of agencies, from here, Ju-


134

neau, Anchorage,” he said. “We called in a lot.”

Stevens said “demobilization” marks the date on which the city

is saying it can handle the repair and cleanup work on its own.

There is still a mountain of debris to be hauled away, and utility

repair work to be completed on Kramer Avenue, as well as at

the sites of the other slides in the road system. But that is scheduled

to be completed over the next few weeks, city staff said

Friday.

“It marks a milestone,” Stevens said of the demobilization. “It

means we as a city can handle the rest ourselves, including the

oil spill.” He said the official start of the citywide emergency was

Aug. 17, with the discovery that thousands of gallons oil had

been accidentally released from a city power plant into Sitka

Sound. The unrelated mudslides, one of which killed three men,

occurred the following day.


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Afterword

By Samantha Cox

The day began like any other typical southeast Alaskan deluge-stricken

morning. As torrential rains wetted our ground, it was

still half-exciting to see the power of our weather at work.

That morning as I drove my children to school I noticed that my

road was washing out and was pleased to see how hard our City

workers were working on resolving the issue.

The website I moderated, Sitka Chatters, was quiet that day, with

exception to the typical business advertisements, complaints about

other drivers, and curiosity over sirens that were heard.

It didn’t take long for the horror to settle in to the bones of locals.

Three of our own were missing in a catastrophic landslide. And we

weren’t talking about a little mud trickling down a hillside. This was

the kind of landslide that roars like a freight train and brings with it

a seemingly unending amount of rip-roaring old-growth trees and

hundreds upon thousands of pounds of suffocating mud.


136

Thousands of locals were spurred in to action. Masses of people

showed up to help with a search that lasted for days. Others took

to their cupboards and began providing meals for the workers and

volunteers. Construction workers abandoned their job sites and

brought their equipment in to help with the search. No one in our

town was unstirred.

The website, Sitka Chatters, instantly blew up as those who wanted

to help logged on to find out how. What had previously been a

2000-member site bloomed in to a webpage with more than 4,000

people, all needing to know what they could do.

Together we amassed and organized information as quickly as possible

to make sure help was placed where it was most needed: where

the food needed to go, where and when volunteers were needed,

how to help the families who were searching for loved ones, where

we could donate, and so on.

Locals were frightened and needed to have a sense of purpose. On

the first day I requested a list be made of homes that were open to

those families who had lost homes or were unable to go back to

their houses which had been made unsafe because of the slides.

Locals warmly began to write “my home can hold four.” “We have

food and beds.” “I can take pets.” Hotels began to post on Chatters

that they would take people in, free of charge. All housing needs

were met. In typical emergency situations an organization will


come in and arrange for lodging. But Sitkans, utilizing Sitka Chatters,

had no need for that service.

On the second day of the search I opened up an account for donations

in the name Sitka Chatters Emergency Fund, with the thought

that any money raised could be put towards the people who were

displaced from their homes and towards the families who were

missing loved ones. Others opened funds as well and we used the

website to get the word out on the different locations that people

could donate to. I was approached for an interview with ABC news

and was able to publicize those fund accounts nationally, and soon

money from all over the country began to pour in.

By the time that I went on air, Sitkans had come up with the idea to

have daily auctions on Sitka Chatters. Generous artists, photographers,

business owners, and more began sending me their items to

auction off. We had beautiful Native artwork, original photograph

prints, flight-seeing tours, certificates to local businesses, clothing,

jewelry, sea otter pillows, locally-made crafts, and so much more.

Between the auction, different fund accounts and a benefit concert,

Sitkans and kind folks from all over the United States raised more

than $50,000 dollars.

By the third day bodies had begun to surface from the wreckage. As

we let go of the hope that our beloved locals would be found alive,

Sitka Chatters became a place where we could console each other


138

and express our love, gratitude, sorrow, and thoughts. It was a place

where we could stand together in solidarity for the families who

had lost loved ones.

Sitka Chatters was a catalyst for good during one of the most

heart-rending situations Sitka had ever faced. It was essentially a

window, allowing all to see exactly how this small seaside community

can pull together and help each other when we need to.

Through grief and hardship, it became apparent that this town is

truly one of the kindest and strongest communities anyone should

ever have the honor of living in. I will never forget that for as long

as I am alive.

The numbers:

30 people donated auction items

In total, the items and services were worth over 5,000 dollars.

In the days following the slide Sitka Chatters gained 2000 more

members from all over the country--all people who were concerned

about what was happening here. We also gained the following of

several news stations, as Chatters was the quickest and most available

way for people to get information.

The Go Fund Me I set up (Sitka Chatters Emergency Fund) raised

14,000 dollars in two weeks.


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