The Two-Way
12:15 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

'Epic' Storm Damages Buildings In Alaska

A historic storm hit Alaska's west coast overnight. The Anchorage Daily News called it "epic." Here's how one meteorologist described the storm's scale to the paper:

"These things get named hurricanes down south and get a category. It's that magnitude," said Jeff Osiensky, regional warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

So far the wind has caused damage to buildings in the city of Nome and some residents have left, seeking higher ground. It's too early to tell, reports the Daily News, the extent of damage, but the paper reports that authorities are worried about the storm surge:

The last time forecasters saw something similar was in November 1974, when Nome took the brunt of another storm. That sea surge measured more than 13 feet, pushing beach driftwood above the level of the previous storm of its type in 1913.

The village of Point Hope, which sits on the tip of a peninsula with the Arctic Ocean on one side and the Bering Sea on the other, is 7 to 8 feet above sea level, said Mayor Steve Oomittuk.

The Inupiat Eskimo village of about 700 people has no sea wall and no evacuation road. If evacuation becomes necessary, everyone will go to the school because it sits on higher ground and is big enough to accommodate everyone, he said.

Smaller communities that are vulnerable to storm erosion were of particular concern, especially the village of Kivalina, already one of the state's most threatened communities because of erosion.

You can follow reports of the Bering Sea storm on Twitter using the hashtag #AKStorm. And from YouTube, here's a video that shows the early effects of the storm in Nome:

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.