'Town Was Covered in Sand': Historic Storm Wreaks Havoc on Western Alaska Communities


Western Alaska is reeling after strong winds and storm surges devastated large portions of the coast.

The damage has prompted Gov. Mike Dunleavy to formally request federal aid from the Biden administration.

The storm, remnants of Typhoon Merbok, is being described as the strongest September storm to hit Alaska in 70 years, according to Alaska’s News Source.

Small towns along 1,300 miles of the state’s coast experienced pelting rain, high winds and severe storm surges. Newly elected Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola said the surge was “recorded at 8, almost 9 feet in Nome on Norton Sound.”

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Dunleavy has been kept busy by the storm’s effects, visiting the damage sites across the coast on Monday. The governor sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday requesting aid to deal with the widespread destruction.

“There was water invasion, certainly some erosion, some airports had debris on them,” Dunleavy said. The airport damage could have particularly dire consequences since many Alaskan communities can only receive supplies from the air.

The Alaska Red Cross is coordinating with local officials to provide aid to the affected communities.

One of the hardest hit communities is the village of Golovin, according to a separate report from Alaska’s News Source.

The village has suffered heavy flooding due to the extreme storm surge and large parts of the town are underwater. Some houses were even ripped off their foundations by the sea’s wrath.

“It took just minutes,” Golovin resident Carol Oliver said. “The water moved so fast, our town was covered in sand that got pushed up by the waves. … It’s shocking to see what the water can do.”

Resident Season Haugen described the damage in a video call with Alaska’s News Source, stating that “I’m actually outside my dad’s house right now in a canoe. … It’s all surrounded by water.”

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Haugen also pointed out that a house belonging to his father’s neighbor had been forcibly moved to a new spot by the rushing water. “That’s a house that’s not supposed to be there,” he said.

Golovin will remain under a high surf advisory for most of the week.

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