'Just a lot of destruction': Cleanup begins in Nome, Alaska, after Typhoon Merbok

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Nome, Alaska, after the storm. 'My husband and I took a side-by-side to drive out along the coast to see how the coastal cabins were doing and there was just a lot of destruction,
Nome, Alaska, after the storm. 'My husband and I took a side-by-side to drive out along the coast to see how the coastal cabins were doing and there was just a lot of destruction,

Cleanup efforts have begun in Nome, Alaska, after what's being described as the "storm of the century" hit the Western Alaska coastline over the weekend.

The storm travelling through the Bering Strait on Saturday caused widespread flooding in several western Alaska coastal communities. Several communities reported homes knocked off their foundations by the force of the incoming water. One house in Nome floated down a river until it got caught under a bridge.

Kim Knudsen has lived in Nome, a city of fewer than 4,000, her whole life. She wasn't there during the storm, but said when she came home a day after the town was a mess.

"My husband and I took a side-by-side to drive out along the coast to see how the coastal cabins were doing and there was just a lot of destruction," Knudsen said. "The front street road washed out, even though there was a seawall."

Knudsen says destruction wasn't the only thing she saw as she made her way through town.

"There were lots of volunteers that were clearing out debris, rocks, and driftwood," she said. "There were also volunteers that were at homes making food for volunteers and the homeless shelter."

Submitted by Kim Knudsen
Submitted by Kim Knudsen

Knudsen says when she got to her cabin she saw it was spared but her neighbours weren't as lucky.

"It was tough to see," she said. "It's sad because that history behind those camps and cabins is gone. It's just hard to see all of that."

Knudsen says there is only one focus tight now: cleaning up.

"That's what we're doing today and that's what we're doing tomorrow," she said. "We'll clean up around our place. Then around town. We have camp neighbours so how we see it is if they're out cleaning then we're out cleaning as well. We'll be out there helping them."

Knudsen says her heart also goes out to surrounding communities.

"Especially Golovin. They have no water. They have no power," she said. "People lost everything.

"They've lost their clothing. Their washer and dryers and refrigerators. A lot of the communities had no power so all of their subsistence, all of their fish and meat they've collected over the summer ... the meat is rotting. The fish is rotting. That's really hard."

'Not our first time to this rodeo'

Nome's mayor John Handeland says this is a terrible event but residents are resilient, and used to intense weather systems.

"This is not our first time to this rodeo," he explained. "2011. 2004. 1974. Just to name a couple."

Submitted by Kim Knudsen
Submitted by Kim Knudsen

Handeland says he's looking on the bright side of things.

"Yes, there's probably a million or two or more of damage that occurred in the community, but nobody was seriously injured. No loss of life, and that's the biggest thing."

Handeland says it's unclear how long the cleanup will take but it will have to be fast.

"We'll need to get everything out of the way," he said."If we wait until we get the first freeze here we'll be dealing with the impact of those hills and valleys that make it a little less safe and desirable during winter time."