By Stan Friedman
NOME, AK (November 9, 2011) – Several towns and villages with Evangelical Covenant churches are in the path of what the National Weather Service is calling the “Bering Sea Superstorm” and one of the worst on record for the region.
The storm is “punishing the west Alaska coast with hurricane-force winds, destructive waves and surge, severe erosion and blowing snow,” reports the National Weather Service. “The storm will continue to unleash its fury for the better part of Wednesday.”
High sea levels and waves will back up water at the mouth of the Snake River, causing additional flooding, according to the weather service. The storm is generating waves as high as 40 feet in the Bering Sea, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. Water in some coastal regions could surge between eight and 10 feet.
Communities with Covenant churches that are especially susceptible to flooding because they are at “eye level with the ocean” are Shaktoolik, Unalakleet, Golovin, and Nome, Curtis Ivanoff, field director for the Evangelical Covenant Church of Alaska, said late Tuesday. To learn more about the churches in these communities, click here.
Ivanoff said residents have been bracing themselves for the storm by stocking up food and water, and securing property. Some people have gathered at community designated safe places, which often are the local schools.
“We’re preparing for the worst,” Unalakleet resident Steve Ivanoff told a news station.
“I’m going to be boarding up some windows and just lifting, moving everything off the floor, that could get wet.” As of late last night, no one in that community had evacuated to the school.
On Tuesday, the Nome Emergency Operations Center exhorted residents to find a safe place to stay until Thursday. Whiteout conditions are expected across the region.
People have been reporting on Twitter throughout the morning that the storm already is hammering Nome. It has blown off doors and roofs, and caused power to flicker. According to several reports winds have gusted up to 80 mph and been accompanied by an eight-foot coast surge.
Contact with outlying villages is difficult. Some, like Shaktoolik, have no or almost nonexistent exit routes and become cutoff during heavy storms.
Violent weather has battered coastal villages in the past. Shaktoolik has moved four times in the last century. The last relocation was in 1976, following a major storm.
Other storms in 2005 and 2009 nearly destroyed the village. Click here to see residents talking about the effect of those storms.
Covenant News Service will continue to update the story as information becomes available.