Alaska / Beach / Bush Life

November ’13 Storm

Winter has finally just about here. Or so I thought… One day last week I awoke to a beautiful snow covered ground. Children were building snowmen, pulling each other down the street on sleds, and people were whizzing by on snow machines (snow mobiles). Not to mention the pile I see that is going to be a reoccurring struggle on my deck. Since my front door faces the south/west, northern and eastern winds whip around the building and pile up there. The snow even goes under the door and makes a nice little bluff in my entryway.  Great right!? I’m told that there will soon be a large mountain between my deck and the school next door. Maybe I’ll build a tunnel…

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Temperatures were on the rise, and by the next day or so the snow was gone again. A few days later we were hit by a bit of weather. There was a severe storm warning fast approaching our area. 

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The November Storm of 2013 brought wind, rain, sleet, snow, ice and water. Lots and lots of water. Saturday, November 9, the winds picked up and the ocean started to churn. Waves were huge! I was told they got up to 15 feet during the storm. They brought in lots of driftwood. (more like trees actually) from the Yukon River.  Some friends and I walked along the beach at 2pm in the 30 mph winds. The beach was shrinking fast and the surf caught our legs more then once, soaking our pants and shoes. We didn’t get too close because one of those 400lb logs could wash in fast and knock you over.

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Walking across to the other side of the road, the river was rising fast too. Families pulled their boats up close to their homes so the water wouldn’t be able to reach them.  You can see the river starting to flood the tundra down where people’s smoke houses are.

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Looking North: The Ocean rising on the left and the river rising on the right. The land is shrinking… smaller and smaller.

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Later that night the teachers gathered for dinner and movie at one of our homes. The winds were up to 55 mph by 10 pm. Every hour or so we went outside to check the river behind the house. It was only 30 feet away, about 5 feet below where homes were built. The river had flooded the old airport and was fast approaching the north and south ends of town where the land was narrower. The school had been opened for the public; it is the town’s evacuation safety site. Families brought their sleeping bags and filled the library and classrooms. I didn’t leave my house. It’s right next door to the school and it sits on a foundation 5 feet off the ground. It’s on the Oceanside, and it was quite a sight to see out my bedroom window. At 1am I could see the waves crashing up above the driftwood at the top of the beach. There was no beach left. The sounds all night long went from pounding rain to sleeting chunks of ice, hitting my window with the force of the 50mph wind outside. Surprisingly, the power went off for only 15 minutes, then came back on. Looking out the window at 3am, I could still see the ocean crashing high, just 50 feet from my front door. Finally I feel asleep to the sounds of the storm brewing next to me.  Here is my friend’s account of that stormy night- Wave Watch.

Where did this come from? Read more about the storm here: Alaska Dangerous Storm Explained. My favorite part, In the storm’s bull’s-eye are some of the harshest inhabited areas of Alaska. Severe flooding and winds are predicted to strike areas already hit hard by coastal erosion”  ….. Yep, that’s where I live.

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Down the coast in Unalakleet, they were getting hit with the same winds and precipitation, but they were more protected from flooding since the village is located in a cove. During this stormy weekend, our 4th-8th grade students were there. The school district had it’s annual wrestling and cheerleading tournament. It’s a huge event for our 15 villages.  Lots of parents, grandparents, and families made the trip to see their sons & daughters. For those of us back in the villages, we got to watch the tournament over live internet streaming (Or at least the ones who had power did). Both of our teams took home awards. It was nice that the stormy weather didn’t take out the internet; I think watching our kids calmed everyone down a bit.

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Here’s our SKK Cheerleaders performing.

Check back tomorrow for the after photos!


3 thoughts on “November ’13 Storm

  1. You are a good writer Emily. I felt like I was reading a book. The photos are beautiful! I’m worried about that harsh weather. Checked the weather today for Shaktoolik and it looks good, just cold. Be safe and enjoy the excitement. Do you have an evacuation plan if you ever need one?

  2. Hey Em, if you ever see some small interesting pieces of driftwood that you’d be willing to mail home, I’d pay for the postage! What a life you lead! Were you frightened at all throughout the storm or just excited? Sounds like you’re a tight knit group and have a fantastic support system there…and for that, we are all very grateful! Betsy

  3. Wow! I hope the water doesn’t get any closer to your apt! We heard reports of an Alaskan earthquake in the Aleutian islands on Wed (the 13th)—did you feel any tremors from it in Shaktoolik?

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