On September 17, Typhoon Merbok devastated a thousand-mile stretch of the western coast of Alaska, damaging homes, seawalls, roads, and airport runways as well as water systems in as many as 40 towns and villages. Red Cross teams came from 15 states to support this disaster. Cortney Shatraw, our Disaster Preparedness Manager, was a member of the team who deployed to Alaska. This was her 15th deployment.  She shared some of her experiences with us: 

“This disaster was all about making new plans to serve Alaska without the standard tools and technology we use to get the mission done. Recovery efforts will be especially challenging as some villages are only reachable by air or barge, and use of the barges will soon become impossible due to sea ice. We all received Cross Cultural Orientation and training, so we knew how to interact with the villages. 

“Each village we entered we had a village escort from a village leader to the local police. They took our teams around since, in addition to no roads, the homes did not have addresses. This response will always remain in my mind one of the most challenging and rewarding ones of my career. Happy to serve all who were impacted in Alaska. “

Yarri from the Yupik tribe and the Alaska Heritage Center gave the team the Cross Cultural Orientation. She shared her thoughts with the team: “We live together as a human race for survival purposes. Always acknowledge others and lift them up. Use love, always love.” 

The response in Alaska presents unique challenges after a disaster, from limited access to supplies, to the unique cultural lifestyles within the communities. The Red Cross is prepared to help these communities recover according to their traditional values and meet the needs this disaster has caused.  

You can help people affected by disasters like floods and countless other crises by making a gift to Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift is a commitment to helping people in need, and every single donation matters. Visit redcross.org, call 800-RED-CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. 

Cortney on the left with Yarri in the middle came and taught the Cross Cultural Orientation with another volunteer Maria from the Greater New York region.