Storm re-engineers mouth of Nome River
Last week’s forceful storm created a storm surge that made significant changes to the ever-changing mouth of the Nome River. A large section of real estate on the Fort Davis side of the mouth washed away, taking the cabin of Rita Hulkill with it. The cabin floated up the river and now rests in the shallows, completely intact, about a half mile north of the Nome River Bridge.
“My boys told me my cabin went into the river,” said Rita Hulkill, who is 82. “My cabin had been there since the 70s. The water has never been that high ever.”
The high water during the storm completely submerged the sand spit on the East side of the river mouth. Around the West side the waters were turbulent. Mrs. Hulkill recalled staying in the cabin back in 1971 when she was battling cancer.
Her son Paul Hulkill said they didn’t think the water was going to get the cabin, that their last move was going to be the end of it. “We’ve moved it three or four times before,” he said. Roger Thompson reports he moved it a couple of years ago. “I moved it with my old pickup,” he said. He put the house on rollers and pulled it back from the bank. “There used to be shore ice before this,” said Paul Hulkill. Late freeze-up means the shore has no protection from the fall storms. The Hulkills would spend time at the cabin doing subsistence. “We used to have all kinds of land over there,” said Paul. “We still do but it’s kind of underwater now. But we’ve got all kinds of memories. Now it’s gone and it’s kind of weird because it’s been our family for generations. My mom’s parents moved from Wales and that was the first place they called home. Over the course of time we all lived there at some point in our life.”
Only a few feet remain of their Native allotment. “The rest is in the river,” said Hukill.
According to Charles Ellanna of the Sitnasuak lands department there are both Sitnasuak properties and Native allotments at Fort Davis. The Hulkill’s cabin sat on their allotment. “Clearly it was weather, erosion from the ocean and river,” said Ellanna.
“The way the regs are technically their Native allotment is still there,” said Tony Weyiouanna of the Kawerak lands department. “And there’s no provision for selecting another site to replace an allotment that’s been eroded away. It’s happening all over Alaska, all over the coastline and on the rivers too. We can’t do anything about it.”
Asked if he had any predictions on what was going to happen at the mouth of the river Roger Thompson had an answer. “It will probably continue to change like everything else does,” he said.