Winter storm hammers Nome, region
A two-day snow storm with gusts topping out at 51 mph brought life in Nome to a temporary halt and caused closures of schools, businesses and cancellations of events. Until the worst was over, city and the state Dept. of Transportation crews refrained from plowing the roads during the thick of the storm.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm advisory from Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon, forecasting heavy snow and blowing snow, limiting visibility at times to near zero.
Mother Nature delivered.
Bob Ten Eyck with the National Weather Service in the Nome field office said on Monday afternoon that a series of four storm systems was hitting the area with significant winds that over the course of the storm switched from east, to southeast to south, southwest and then to the west. Once the winds came from the southwest they picked up speed and blew with a force of 41 mph, gusting to 51 mph on Tuesday at 1:35 a.m. Although massive amounts of snow seemed to inundate the area, the weather service reported only an accumulated snowfall of 2.4 inches. Since February 1, a total of 15.1 inches of snow fell, according to Ten Eyck. However, mountains of snow piled up in snowdrifts that shifted like sand dunes as the wind switched directions, leaving buildings caked in white, sticky snow and giving residents a workout by shoveling, snow-blowing and pushing walls of snow out of driveways, yards and entryways, which proved tedious as the wet snow with the sudden drop in temperatures turned rock hard.
Nome Schools were closed on Monday and Tuesday. A world-renowned cellist who was scheduled to give a concert on Monday night, courtesy of the Nome Arts Council, didn’t make it to Nome and the concert was cancelled. A local list serve and social media announced closures of stores, the Rec Center, gas stations, airlines, the court and even Nome Joint Utilities sent their people home. A crew of four, though, was busy to standby and respond to power outages that occurred on the Beam Road and at the Anvil Mountain/Newton subdivision areas. The outages came as the warm weather switched from above freezing to a low of 5°F in a matter of hours. Power lines iced up and the violent wind slapped lines together, which led to the outages.
A satellite image of the Bering Strait and Northern Bering Sea taken on February 8 and posted on the Seward Peninsula/Bering Strait Weather and Climate Info Facebook page administered by UAF Climate Analyst Rick Thoman shows open north of St. Lawrence Island, in much of Norton Sound and even on then northern Seward Peninsula. The Weather Service also issued a storm surge warning for the Northern Bering Sea, Norton Sound and the Yukon delta as the strong winds and weak ice conditions resulted in unusually high water for February. In Gambell, giant waves crashed onto the shore, spilled over the community’s runway and even into the lake on the opposite side of the runway. Ice chunks are reportedly piled up on the beach.
Unalakleet saw winds of 48 mph, gusting to 59 mph and ocean levels rising. Unalakleet Mayor Wade Ryan said in a phone interview with the Nugget that the surge wasn’t as bad as fall storms because of some shore fast sea ice, but the strong winds did break up the ice and flooded up into the river. The surge was pushing into the river, which led to some concerns for the upcoming Iron Dog Snowmachine race that will come through Unalakleet early next week.
In Nome, the police department issued a public service announcement to avoid travel if not necessary. NPD’s Paul Kosto said that public works crews had to clear the road for ambulance volunteers as they responded to a call. Besides reports of cars stuck in drifts, in the middle of the road or in ditches, Search and Rescue was toned out to respond to a call of a driver who lost his or her way in Icy View. Volunteers responded and helped the driver find the way.
The storm let up on Tuesday afternoon and people began digging themselves out of their homes and driveways to resume their regular lives.