In Haines, Beach Road residents cleared to visit homes south of the slide zone

Evacuees listen to an update from city officials on Saturday, Dec. 5 in Haines. Some were told it was not yet safe to go home after they were displaced by landslides caused by heavy precipitation and saturated soils. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Some Beach Road residents can now visit their homes for the first time since a devastating landslide on Dec. 2. That’s following the all-clear issued Friday night by local authorities.

Most residents on the north side of the slide were able to return to their homes last week. But those to the south of the slide had to wait for the green light from state geologists, who now say parts of the mountain above look stable.

Sally Garton works in the Haines Borough Finance Office. She says her boyfriend joined a group who boated out to their homes over the weekend.

“We were able to finally get clothing, cause we haven’t had any since this happened. Just what we were wearing was all we had. He was able to go back and finally retrieve his wallet,” she said.

The road is still impassable, so residents were limited to taking what they could fit on a skiff.

Cleanup was a big part of the mission. There have been no utilities to the area since the slide. Residents worried their pipes would burst or their homes could fall prey to marauding wildlife.

“Wednesday was garbage day, the day this all happened, so we had a garbage can full of garbage and all our food in our freezer and refrigerator that rotted from not having electricity. Our big concern was taking care of bear attractants while we still could. The bears have already hit our house twice and we could just see it coming again with any smell like that,” she said.

Garton says their pipes were okay and no bears got in the trash. Along with her clothes, her boyfriend was able to bring home some of her plants — African violet starts. She says they’re in the plant equivalent of intensive care after being in the cold house for so long.

The couple has a place to stay through the holidays, but Garton says her previous sense of security will be hard to regain.

“I guess it’s hard to identify everything you go through,” Garton said.

“We still have the panic attacks. When he went out there … Yeah, they said we were in the green zone, but what are the chances of this happening again?”

Two Beach Road residents, David Simmons and Jenae Larson, remain missing and are presumed lost in the disaster.

State geoscientists say the slide area and some homes around it are still considered unsafe — and will likely be inaccessible for months. A barricade blocks the road on the north side of the slide and another will block the slide area from the south.

Officials say 33 families have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the month when landslides destroyed nine residences.

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