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An entire community under one roof

Alaska is the largest of the United States states but also has one of the lowest populations. Not only is Alaska as a whole geographically isolated from the rest of the country, but there is a town within the state that is even more isolated, Whittier, Alaska.

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This town located 1 hour from Anchorage has the majority of the community of 220 people all living under one roof. An old army barracks was renovated into a 14 story condominium which now most of these residents call home. It is now commonly referred to by locals as Begich Towers.

This building though has not only apartments for the people but basically the entire town under one roof leaving little reason to live the building. The post office is located near the entrance with the police station just down the hall and the church in the basement. There is also a health clinic, convenience store, video store, playground and laundromat that are all easily accessible within the building. Even the mayor and city offices are located in the building.

Hallways have bulletin boards filled with activities and updates, and children have easy access to their school which is connected via an underground tunnel. The Whittier Community School is directly behind the tower but the tunnel makes the school accessible regardless of the harsh weather conditions.

The town is a popular port for cruise ships during the summer months when the days receive 22-hours of sun for people to enjoy. But as soon as the weather changes, the landscape transforms. The harsh wind, rain and snow take over for a few months making it hard for anyone to venture too far out. On an average they receive 250 inches of snow annually.

What makes this town so secluded though is that it is only accessible by sea or going through a one lane tunnel that stretches for 2.5 miles cutting through the Maynard Mountains. Every 30 minutes the traffic direction alternates and then closes at 10:30 p.m. and reopens at 5:30 a.m. If you head out at night and don’t make it back before the tunnel closes you will have to snuggle up in your vehicle for the night and wait until the morning to continue your journey home.

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