Saturday night kicked off my first weekend back in Nome after a month-long absence. Mother Nature is kind and nurturing and all that other great stuff, so she threw me a welcome home party to get me caught up on what I missed.
Everyone on the southern Seward Peninsula coast was invited. I showed up to the “party” with nervous energy, flashlights, winter gear, and food. Mother Nature provided everything else: black outs, floods, 65 mph winds. I gotta say, my favorite part of the evening was when the house started shaking and whirlwinds of blowing snow formed out of nothingness, traveling down the deserted streets of Nome towards east beach. Chasing behind was what I can only guess was a chunk of somebody’s rooftop rolling like a tumbleweed.
A very loud tumbleweed.
The safest and smartest thing to do was to stay home and enjoy the party from the confinements of some form of shelter, so, of course, being who I am, I did the opposite and left the house to meet some friends at Airport Pizza. Yup.
Nothing says Welcome Home like an Alaskan storm. When I left we still had plenty of daylight and the snow had not set yet. October Nome weather is a little like middle school, awkward and unsure of itself, but I skipped the whole ordeal and came back to see it coming into its own. After a month of hanging out on the east coast, it was a little nuts to return to true winter temperatures.
Of course, storms are not really parties. Stebbins, Shaktoolik, Unalakleet, and many other communities in KNOM’s listening range suffered a lot of damage this weekend and our news and weather coverage has been extensive as a result. Weather talk in western Alaska is not the polite chitchat you do when a stranger with nothing to say confronts you in a city street; weather talk in our region is serious business because it affects our every day lives. Sometimes I may kid around a bit to lift our spirits, but for the most part the rule is that you don’t joke about the weather.
After the worst of the storm passed, I went on a walk about town with my friend Jenna.
Thankfully, the damage in Nome was minimal. Power poles broke or became unattached. The Bering Sea was fierce, completely devouring the beach. Windows on Front St. properties—such as that of Subway, our only chain restaurant/movie theater in town— were boarded up. At the moment it’s hard to picture the waves taming down and freezing over for the winter, but within the next month that’s exactly what’s going to happen. We lose 6 to 7 minutes of daylight every day, and winter, real winter, will be here before we know it.
We are expecting another storm soon but it’s going to be okay. Locals have been dealing with this stuff for years. Alaskans are hardcore. They are prepared for just about anything and have plenty of advice for the newbs in town! Even 15 months under my belt make me feel more confident about another winter. I know how to stay busy and active, who to call in case of emergencies, and to remember my vitamin D pills. KNOM also provides the volunteer house with sun lamps and a gym membership, which seriously helps us in the endorphins department.
Nome has given me a stormy welcome but a welcome nonetheless. My friends and family on the east coast think I’m a little crazy for doing what I’m doing, but at the same time, they expect nothing less of me. Now, if only I could convince them to come visit… (hint hint)