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Apprehension turns into relief as epic storm moves on

Kyle Hopkins,Mike Dunham
Some owners of small planes used trucks for protection from the big storm that hit Nome and other parts of western Alaska. No planes were seen flipped in Nome after the first part of the storm moved through Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
Location: Saint Michael, 11/9/11 12:30 PM Living only 100 yards from the beach has occasional disadvantages. The fish racks typically define the beach line.
Photo courtesy of M. Thompson / ADN reader submission
Location: Togiak Alaska, 10am, November 12, 2011 Hurricane force winds in Togiak the night of the 11th of November, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Melson Forbes / ADN reader submission
Nome's city crew cleans downtown early Wednesday morning, November 9, 2011 after the first part of the storm moved through the area.
Peggy Fagerstrom
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday, November 9, 2011 and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
The current hazard map shows the storm is letting up along the Aleutian chain but most of western Alaska is still under the warning status.November 9. 2011
US National Weather Service
Location: South East end of St. Michael, 11/9/11 8 homes are not accessible by road.
Photo courtesy of Charlene Austin / ADN reader submission
Location: Togiak Alaska, 10am, November 12, 2011 a neighbor's building rolled into another little house
Photo courtesy of Melson Forbes / ADN reader submission
The sea water from the storm broke up the ice on the Snake River which flows through Nome. November 9, 2011.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday, November 9, 2011 and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
Pat Krier ties down his propane tank on the ocean side of the Polar Cafe' in preparation for the storm Tuesday November 8, 2011 in Nome.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Saint Michael, 11/9/11 12:30 PM
Photo courtesy of M. Thompson / ADN reader submission
A rare, extremely powerful winter storm hit northwestern Alaska on November 8 and 9, 2011, bringing hurricane-force winds, high seas, and heavy snow. Nome, the largest community affected by the storm, was buffeted by winds gusting to 66 miles per hour and a 10-foot storm surge. The National Weather Service reported wind gusts up to 85 miles per hour in Wales, northwest of Nome. Coastal flood warnings were still in effect throughout northwest Alaska on November 10.
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
People rush to board up their windows Tuesday November 8, 2011 on East Front Street in Nome.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Saint Michael, 11/9/11 12:30 PM This road was perfectly dry at 8:00 AM, but flooded and completely impassible by 9:00 AM.
Photo courtesy of M. Thompson / ADN reader submission
Location: Shaktoolik, AK, 11/09/11 Anikan and Kiya looking to the flooded area's on the river side of Shaktoolik; taken at 12:45pm;
Photo courtesy of Gloria Andrew / ADN reader submission
Some houses had their roofs blown off during the November 9, 2011 storm in Nome, Alaska.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Nome kids plays in sea foam near the Nome harbor late Tuesday evening, November 8, 2011 as the big Bering Sea storm started kicking up.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
Location: Kotlik, 11/9/2011 Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Shaktoolik, AK, 11/09/11 taken at 11:13am on the coast of Shaktoolik, AK
Photo courtesy of Gloria Andrew / ADN reader submission
A couple stand in front of flooded River Street in west Nome while the waves crash against the seawall, Wednesday, November 9, 2011. A greater surge is expected later Wednesday night.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
The Nome Trading Company on Front Street continues to serve customers after boarding up all the windows in preparation for the big storm Tuesday November 8, 2011 in Nome.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: 11/9/2011, Kotlik Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Shaktoolik, AK, 11/09/11 shows the ocean waves crashing onto the banks and wood pile behind the Shaktoolik School at 12:25pm
Photo courtesy of Gloria Andrew / ADN reader submission
River Street is under water at 4pm on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 in west Nome after the first storm surge. Another, bigger surge is expected later Wednesday night.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
The high water near Nome washed out the road on west beach during the storm on early Tuesday morning, November 9, 2011.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
Location: Kotlik, 11/9/2011 Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Shaktoolik, AK, 11/09/11 taken at 11:13am on the coast of Shaktoolik when high tides were coming in.
Photo courtesy of Gloria Andrew / ADN reader submission
The strong winds from the storm blew off the roof of an apartment building in Nome, Alaska. November 9, 2011.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
Charlie Weyauvanna plays in sea foam late Tuesday evening ,November 8, 2011 as the big Bering Sea storm started kicking up.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Kotlik, 11/9/2011 Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Tununak Ak, nov 9 , 2011 this is the road going to air port you can see how bad it is when it's long gone cant across it to go see the planes
Photo courtesy of Mr Usugan / ADN reader submission
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
NOAA satellite imagery shows the storm's progress today.
Photo courtesy NOAA
Location: Golovin, Alaska, 11/09/11
Photo courtesy of John Peterson / ADN reader submission
Location: Kotlik, 11/9/2011 Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Nome, Ak, 11/09/11 Dry Creek flooded from the incoming tidal surge
Photo courtesy of David Okitkon / ADN reader submission
A fishing boat that sank in a boat harbor is shown in Nome Nov. 10, 2011. A massive storm that battered Alaska's western coast with hurricane-strength winds and towering sea surges has passed out of the region in a much weaker state, leaving behind widespread damage and a missing man who may have been swept out to a churning sea.
Peggy Fagerstrom / AP2011
Standing water on the city side of Nome's seawall created a small whirlpool (foreground) on Wednesday afternoon, as increasingly strong waves continued to batter the coast (background).
Photo by Matthew Smith / KNOM Radio Mission
Daniel Lockhart gets a good shot of the rough Bering Sea on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 in Nome.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday, November 9, 2011 and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
Pat Krier, owner of the Polar Cafe, boards up the back of his business facing the seawall and the Bering Sea Tuesday November 8, 2011 in Nome.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Kotlik, 11/9/2011 Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Nome, Ak, 11/09/11 Dry Creek flooding from incoming tidal surge
Photo courtesy of David Okitkon / ADN reader submission
By mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011, chunks of ice had built up near the mouth of Nome's Snake River.
Photo by Ben Matheson / KNOM Radio Mission
River Street is flooded with ocean water as it flows into the harbor at 4pm on Wednesday, November 9, 2011 in west Nome, Alaska.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
The causeway being hit by waves before the big storm Tuesday November 8, 2011 in Nome.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Charlie Weyauvanna plays in sea foam late Tuesday evening ,November 8, 2011 as the big Bering Sea storm started kicking up.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Kotlik, 11/9/2011 Rising flood waters in Kotlik.
Photo courtesy of Stella Rose / ADN reader submission
Location: Golovin, 11/09/11
Photo courtesy of Julie Olson / ADN reader submission
Location: Tununak Ak, Mr Usugan this is road is going to the air port and you can see is really bad i think it have few more years or less , the high water reached the level and up and over the land
Photo courtesy of Mr Usugan / ADN reader submission
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
The Nome Nugget newspaper is all boarded up awaiting the big storm Tuesday November 8, 2011 in Nome.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Nome, Alaska, 11/8/2011 The Bering Sea kicks up near Nome, AK as a huge storm moves into western Alaska on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Catherine Lepine / ADN reader submission
Location: Tunnuak Ak, Nov 12 2011 Tununak waves west wind at 30 gusting at 60 knots
Photo courtesy of Mr Usugan / ADN reader submission
A rare, extremely powerful winter storm hit northwestern Alaska on November 8 and 9, 2011, bringing hurricane-force winds, high seas, and heavy snow. This satellite image was made November 8 as it approached Alaska's coastline.
NASA satellite image
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
Early morning cleanup happened in Nome after first storm surge and before second surge on Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Captured by the NOAA-19 satellite's AVHRR sensor, the storming bearing down on Alaska is seen in this infrared imagery on November 8, 2011 at 1400z. The storm is predicted to bring hurricane force winds and surge through the Bering Strait. Coastal flood warnings are in effect for much of western Alaska. Because of Alaska's high latitude, geostationary satellite do not provide adequate coverage. Polar-orbiting satellites like NOAA-19 are required to monitor severe weather in such areas. However, polar-orbiting satellites acquire imagery as swaths as the orbit around the planet. The area outside of the swath is visible in this image.
NOAA
Location: Nome, Alaska, 11/8/2011 Wind driven snow plasters a door in Nome, AK as a huge storm moves into western Alaska on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Catherine Lepine / ADN reader submission
Location: Quinhagak, Ak, 11/12/2011 After Midnite Coastal flood.
Photo courtesy of Joe / ADN reader submission
This building on Nome's 1st Street took a beating during the storm. November 9, 2011
Photo by Rosa Schmidt / KNOM Radio Mission
A small seal got some rest on ice in the Snake River in Nome Wednesday, November 9, 2011 after a wild night with the Bering Sea storm that hit the region.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
Pat Krier, owner of the Polar Cafe on Front Street, puts finishing touches to his windows while his crew carries merchandise out of the cellar to the 2nd floor Tuesday November 8, 2011 in Nome. During the last storm his building basement was flooded and he lost a lot of supplies due to water damage.
Peggy Fagerstrom
Location: Tununak AK, nov 9, 2011 this one after the storms hit us , And you can see how the tide camed in last night from the snow line on the seawall about close to 3/4 ,and most of the down town area went to the school to do the flood and they had no power from air port to the old post office and the wind camed from the southeast guesting at seventy-five to eighty knots but gladly the water didnt make to the village
Photo courtesy of MR Usugan / ADN reader submission
Location: Nome, 11/8/11 Photo taken by Kacey Miller of Nome; 11/8 at 8pm across from the Nome Elementary school.
Photo courtesy of Kacey Miller / ADN reader submission
Location: Tununak Ak, Nov 12 ,2011 big waves , west wind at 30 gusting at 50 to 60 knots
Photo courtesy of Mr Usugan / ADN reader submission
On Wednesday afternoon, November 9, 2011, water levels continued to rise at Nome's port/harbor area.
Photo by David Dodman / KNOM Radio Mission
During a lull in the storm, the waves from the Bering Sea continue to crash over east Nome, Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Photo by Peggy Fagerstrom
The storm crashed along the coast in Shaktoolik Wednesday, November 9, 2011 and raised the water all around the community.
Elmer Bekoalok
Location: Nome, AK, 11/08/11
Photo courtesy of James Standish / ADN reader submission
Location: Nome, AK, 11/8/11 Photo taken by Kacey Miller of Nome; 7:30 pm on 11/8 at 6th and I.
Photo courtesy of Kacey Miller / ADN reader submission
Location: Tununak Ak, Nov 12 ,2011 big waves , west wind at 30 gusting at 50 to 60 knots
Photo courtesy of Mr Usugan / ADN reader submission
Location: White Mountain, AK, 11/09/11 Honuk Lincoln, his son B-Boy, and Dean Pushruk working to move boats to safety as the Fish River's level rose.
Photo courtesy of Joanna Wassillie / ADN reader submission
Location: Golovin, Alaska, 11/09/11 Neighbors home surrounded by water.
Photo courtesy of Chuck Lewis / ADN reader submission
Workers on the Little Diomede school project photographed the affects of the storm on Little Diomede Island mid-day Wednesday, November 9, 2011.
Levi McKay and Dave Ward / ASRC SKW ESKIMOS
Location: Saint Michael, 11/9/11 12:30 PM The wind-generated tidal surge rapidly floods low-lying lands in Saint Michael. With several hours yet before the predicted high tide for the day, we don't know the full extent of the flooding.
Photo courtesy of M. Thompson / ADN reader submission
Location: Nome, 11/8/11 Picture taken by Kacey Miller of Nome; 11/8 at 6pm. Powerlines whipping in the wind.
Photo courtesy of Kacey Miller / ADN reader submission
Location: Tununak Ak, Nov 12 ,2011 west wind gusting at 45 to 60 knots
Photo courtesy of Mr Usugan / ADN reader submission

The superstorm that tore across Western Alaska this week vanished to the north Thursday, leaving behind 37 communities reporting some combination of flooding, wind damage, power outages and evacuations.

It also left behind a sense of relief. Billed as one of the biggest, baddest weather events to hit the Bering Sea in 40 years, the storm had resulted in no reports of major damage and no injuries as of Thursday afternoon, according to the state.

At least one storm-related death remained a possibility, however, as volunteers on four-wheelers scoured a jetty in Northwest Alaska looking for a 26-year-old Teller man who troopers say may have disappeared Wednesday among the crashing waves and high winds. (See story, Page A-10).

The storm battered treeless tundra villages throughout Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, cutting power in some communities and silencing cellphones in others. Families in several villages fled to school classrooms and gyms for refuge.

Thirty or 40 people evacuated low- lying areas in Golovin, said a spokesman for the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Winds tore at roofs in Point Hope, where villagers assembled at Tikigaq School and greeted the blizzard warning Wednesday night with traditional drumming and dancing.

"We started (dancing) at 7 p.m. and they canceled the warning about 9:30," said Adela Lane, village liaison for the North Slope Borough. "When we finished and people went out again it had calmed down."

Nonetheless, 393 people -- more than half of the community -- spent the night at the school, said Lane. Lacking heat and power at home, people continued arriving throughout the night.

Lane thought damage might have been worse if a natural barrier of ice hadn't formed along the shore. The frozen breakwater was between 6 and 8 feet high, she said.

On Thursday, flood and erosion warnings along the coast faded away as villagers in Norton Sound, St. Lawrence Island and north to the Chukchi Sea coast began taking stock of the damage.

By 5 p.m. Thursday, Point Hope remained the only village where people were still seeking emergency shelter, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Emergency Management division.

"They plan to keep the shelter open until power is restored," he said.

'WE'RE FINE'

Bonita Barr with the Native Village of Deering, on the north side of the Seward Peninsula, said she saw readings of winds at 69 mph early Thursday morning, but the town of 122 people came through in good shape. Preparations were made to evacuate people to the school, but that turned out not to be necessary.

"We're fine," she said. "But we did have high waters."

The road to the airport was under water for three to four hours overnight, she said.

In the barrier island village of Kivalina, a rock revetment built in 2008 and 2009 defended against the waves as many residents took shelter at the school.

"It was one huge slumber party," said Colleen Swan, an emergency responder for the village.

Swan said there were reports of huge winds through the night but no initial signs of major damage.

Water appeared to go over the lowest lying areas, with the town dumpsite between the sea and the lagoon flooded, she said.

Swan said school personnel who made arrangements for emergency shelter did a remarkably good job. "I applaud their efforts and organization," she said.

Gov. Sean Parnell on Thursday praised village and city leaders across the coast with rallying to thwart additional storm damage or injuries.

"Local community leaders have done an excellent job preparing for the storm, and making sure the lives of their neighbors and loved ones were protected in the best way possible," Parnell said, according to a statement issued by the governor's office.

State officials continued to man an operations command center in Anchorage on Thursday, but were scaling back efforts even as they planned to send teams to survey damage in coastal communities as early as next week.

NOME RECOVERS QUICKLY

As the weather service issued a series of strongly worded warnings of the approaching tempest earlier this week, heavy news coverage and countless Facebook updates and tweets amplified its violent reputation. Stoked by predictions of hurricane-force winds and near-record storm surges, Alaskans planned for the worst.

For Sean Knudsen of Nome, the storm proved less impressive than expected.

"I think a lot of the news frenzy was kind of making it up to be this terrible disaster is coming, and it wasn't anything that we haven't been through before," said Knudsen, assistant manager for the Aurora Inn.

Seawater and debris splashed across the city sea wall Wednesday night, with reports of damage to two homes and two commercial buildings, according to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

But Knudsen said he drove easily Thursday along Front Street, the iconic roadway that serves as the finish of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and saw few problems beyond some asphalt ripped away by the water.

"Nome recovers pretty quick after a storm," he said.

With wind speeds approaching 90 mph in the Bering Strait and unofficial reports of gusts of 93 mph in Little Diomede, the storm's wind speeds lived up to expectations, said John Lingaas, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

This year's storm, which the National Weather Service likened to the power of a category 3 hurricane, was often compared to an infamous 1974 Bering Sea storm.

Asked if the comparison held true, Weather Service meteorologist Julie Malingowski looked to Nome, the largest city in the path of the 2011 storm, for comparisions.

In '74, water levels peaked at about 12 feet above normal in Nome, Malingowski said. Wednesday night, water levels in the 2011 storm peaked at about 10 feet above normal levels.

"It was a little bit stronger (back) then, as far as the effects in Nome go, but I think the overall effect of the storm was similar," she said.

Another way to measure the strength of a storm is by barometric pressure.

In general, the lower the pressure, the greater the storm. Both the 1974 storm and this week's storm had similar barometric pressure measurements -- about 970 millibars, as of Nov. 12, 1974 and 6 a.m. Wednesday, respectively, Malingowski said.

Either way, the superstorm was history, she said. By Thursday afternoon, its center wandered roughly 500 miles northwest of Cape Lisburne and was still on the move.

"It's out of here," Malingowski said.

Twitter updates: twitter.com/adn_kylehopkins. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at khopkins@adn.com.

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By KYLE HOPKINS and MIKE DUNHAM
Anchorage Daily News