An update on the Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility (YKEALF)

Last year on May 27, a build up of ice created a jam on the Yukon River in Alaska, about 40 miles downstream of the village of Galena and the Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility (YKEALF). This created a natural dam and caused water and huge ice chunks to rise into the surrounding villages.

Many of the houses in Galena are built to handle flooding, but this was a true “100-year flood,” and virtually everyone lost their homes and businesses. I visited YKEALF shortly after the flood and saw a badly damaged community, but one that was thankful that no lives were lost, and it was resilient in the face of massive property losses.

When the waters began to rise into YKEALF, the first concern was to move the elders to safety. The staff was able to use boats to move all the residents out and onto planes to surrounding cities like Fairbanks and Nome. Once everyone was accounted for, the staff turned to saving the facility.

Thankfully, the waters only flooded the crawl space and rose about two feet above the main floor. The staff was able to rip out all the carpeting and remove the wet drywall before the moisture created mold. This quick action likely saved the facility from permanent closure. Sadly, the flooding destroyed the wood pellet furnace that helped offset heating costs during the long and cold winters.

My photos:

Here is a link to more information about the flooding:

Agnes Sweetsir, YKEALF’s director, worked tirelessly to submit all the insurance claims, schedule the repairs and move the elders back in. Because of her hard work, the facility reopened in October and is again serving Native elders, and providing valuable jobs and community space for the village.

Check out this short video from Alaska TV showing the current state of YKEALF and the challenges that remain:

We admire the persistence and resilience the facility staff, the elders and the entire Galena community has shown.