Veterans Group Assists Talkeetna Residents with Flood Aftermath

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by Russ Slaten

Original Air Date: October 3, 2012

TALKEETNA - Initial reports say over 800 structures were damaged and 14 destroyed in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. As floodwaters recede, a small group of volunteers are helping out before state and federal authorities arrive.

Team Rubicon is a non-profit group made-up of U.S. military veterans who use their training in a way that benefits the veterans with an opportunity for continued service, and benefits natural disaster victims by providing more immediate assistance.

"Our motto for Team Rubicon is 'Bridge the Gap,' and what that means is from the time of the disaster and from the time the state and federal response shows up, there's a period of time where people are trying to get their lives back together and get their stuff cleaned up. That's where we come in to help," said Team Rubicon Alaska Coordinator Jeff Alberts.

Team Rubicon began in 2010 as disaster response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti. The group engages more than 2000 volunteers around the country and responds to natural disasters all over the world.

"We have a lot in common, and most of us are veterans, so we still want to help out, but we want to do it in a different kind of capacity. We want to help our local communities, as well as those people overseas," said Alberts.

Talkeetna residents the Tollefsens saw their basement submerged in over three feet of floodwater during the heighth of the disaster. The Tollefsens attempted to salvage some belongings, but lost most of their expensive appliances including a refridgerator, freezer, washer and dryer.

In this case, Team Rubicon assessed the damage, cleaned out ruined belongings, replaced a structure and will now advise the Tollefsens on ways to repair their home.

"You'll go forward just like everyone else does. It's really a blessing that Team Rubicon will be helping us, because we wouldn't be able to do it without them," said Sheryl Tollefsen of Talkeetna.

In the next few days, Team Rubicon will continue to work on repairing storm damages in the Mat-Su Valley.

Residents can call the Alaska Emergency Coordination Center at 428-7100 for help with wet basements and cleanup.

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