Over a week after Nome woman goes missing, little sign of what could have led to her disappearance

A red building under gray skies has several police SUVs parked out front.
The Nome Volunteer Fire Department is headquarters for the search and rescue effort for Florence Okpealuk. (Emily Russell/KNOM 2016).

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. says more than one-hundred volunteers along with the Search and Rescue team joined the search Saturday. The party formed formed 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,” he said.

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

A face shot of an Alaska Native woman wiith black small plastic glasses. She is smiling slightly.
Image at top: Florence Okpealuk of Nome, who Nome Police are actively searching for. Photo from Nome Police Department, used with permission (2020).

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

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 has 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,” she said.

Currently Nome Search & 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 31, the day after. Anyone with any information regarding Okpealuk’s disappearance is encouraged to contact the Nome Police at 443-5262.