Alaska Native villages on the Arctic shoreline are extremely vulnerable to coastal storm events—and this vulnerability is increasing as the climate changes and the coastline becomes more susceptible to large waves, storm surge, and erosion. These changes are putting more critical infrastructure and more lives at risk. Villagers are struggling to cope, sometimes having to evacuate from their remote locations with little or no notice—which is complicated, costly, and dangerous. The National Weather Service wanted to learn how it could enhance its warnings to better alert remote villages to life-threatening coastal floods.
ERG conducted focus groups with more than 80 tribal community members to engage in a dialogue around storm surge and coastal resiliency. We also involved local Alaska Native cultural experts to help facilitate the sessions in a culturally appropriate manner. Through these focus groups, we learned about communities’ unique vulnerabilities, social structures, and communications channels—all of which can hamper their ability to receive warning information—and their suggestions for ways the National Weather Service can help communities better prepare and respond to coastal storms.