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More Than a Week Into Search for Missing Nome Woman, Little Evidence Found

Nome Volunteer Fire Department
The Nome Volunteer Fire Department is headquarters for the search and rescue effort for Joseph Balderas. Photo: Emily Russell/KNOM.

Local community members turned out in large numbers on Saturday to search for a missing Nome woman but despite their efforts, Florence Okpealuk has not been found.

Nome Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Department Chief Jim West Jr. reports he had the more than one-hundred volunteers along with the Search and Rescue team, form a line, each standing 3-6 feet apart, to comb the area where Okpealuk was last reported.

“We started at the west side of the NJUS treatment lagoon and we had volunteers cover two to two and a half miles west, just past the Dredge 6 area.”

– Jim West Jr.

The group searched from the tideline on West Beach up to the road behind Dredge 6 for the 33-year-old woman.

“We did find four-wheeler tracks and footprints in odd places.”

West Jr. says Nome Police did gather some potential evidence but West didn’t share specifics.

Okpealuk has been missing for over a week now and local law enforcement have not yet made the call to end the search. But temperatures have dipped into the thirties and Nome has seen rain over the last week which West Jr. says isn’t a good sign.

“With the cold temperatures and she didn’t have proper gear to sustain the temperatures outside at night, there’s a possibility hypothermia set in. She could have wandered off anywhere, unless she was taken somewhere else or picked up.”

Currently Nome Search and Rescue is pulling in more resources. A local search dog helped the efforts on Saturday and West Jr. is working to get additional search dogs out of Anchorage.

Okpealuk was last seen on August 30th. NPD was notified on August 31st, the day after. Anyone with any information regarding Okpealuk’s disappearance is encouraged to contact the Nome Police at 443-5262.

Image at top: The Nome Volunteer Fire Department is headquarters for the search and rescue effort for Florence Okpealuk. Photo from Emily Russell, KNOM (2016).

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