Fall Storm Watch: River Moves Closer To Newtok Homes

Oct 17, 2017

Newtok has already lost several buildings to erosion.
Credit Christine Trudeau/KYUK

Last week’s storms took away another chunk of the eroding village of Newtok. 

“I went to go check on the erosion on Friday and we lost a lot of land,” said resident Lisa Charles. “It’s getting really close now.” She estimated that the storms washed away up to 50 feet of Newtok’s shoreline, although no one knows exactly how much damage was done. Some residents said that the village lost more like 10 feet. Dalen Ayuluk, the Newtok Village Council’s Tribal Administrative Assistant, said that he'll be able to measure it soon. He said that he’s observed what he describes as “tears in the land” by the Nignlik River as the tundra cracks open and crumbles away.

Nathan Thom said that the river is about 30 feet from his home now, and that his grandparents’ favorite spots on the nearby tundra have already disappeared. During last week’s storms, when waves of high water crashed into Newtok’s eroded bluffs, Thom says that the spray from the waves splashed against the walls and roof of his house. But he said that it could have been worse.

Thom added that he hasn’t trusted his home’s drinking water in months, and that he looks forward to moving to Newtok's new location on higher ground.