Remote Alaska to stockpile food, just in case

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska is known for pioneering, self-reliant residents who are accustomed to remote locations and harsh weather. Despite that, Gov. Sean Parnell worries a major earthquake or volcanic eruption could leave the state’s 720,000 residents stranded and cut off from food and supply lines. His answer: Build giant warehouses full of emergency food and supplies, just in case.

For some in the lower 48, it may seem like an extreme step. But Parnell says this is just Alaska.

In many ways, the state is no different than the rest of America. Most people buy their groceries at stores, and rely on a central grid for power and heat. But, unlike the rest of the lower 48, help isn’t a few miles away. When a fall storm cut off Nome from its final fuel supply last winter, a Russian tanker spent weeks breaking through thick ice to reach the remote town.

The state plans two food stockpiles in or near Fairbanks and Anchorage, two cities that also have military bases. Construction on the two storage facilities will begin this fall, and the first food deliveries are targeted for December. The goal is to have enough food to feed 40,000 people for up to a week, including three days of ready-to-eat meals and four days of bulk food that can be prepared and cooked for large groups. To put that number into perspective, Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, has about 295,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Juneau, its third largest, about 31,000.

Delivery of the food stockpiles would be staggered over three years. It would be replaced after it’s used or expired, and it’s entirely possible that much of the food will never be needed. It is not clear what the state will do with the expired, unused food.

The project has a budget of around $4 million and hasn’t generated any real controversy.

 

— Compiled from Associated Press