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Powerful storm hits Alaska, bringing historic wave action, coastal flooding

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One of the strongest storms in at least a decade hit Alaska Saturday with hurricane-force winds, high seas and rain that caused coastal flooding.

A low-pressure front in the Beringstraight turned as wide and strong as any winter storm, but instead of bringing cold weather, it was fueled by the volatile air from former Typhoon Merbok, forecasters said.

The result was 5 inches of rain along the coast south of Anchorage on Saturday, with a flood warning for that coastline until 10 p.m., federal forecasters said.

Storm conditions, including gusts of more than 80 km/h, were expected overnight off the state’s Arctic and west coasts, prompting Governor Mike Dunleavy to declare disaster for the affected areas..

The statement included the opening of a center for emergency operations. Dunleavy said on Saturday there were no injuries.

Charlie Brown, mayor of the Golovin tribal community, said about 40 people have been displaced to higher ground floods flooded the lower half of the city.

In Nome on Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service noted that there were… “dangerous coastal flooding” and charged “a very angry sea.”

“Waves and storm surges invade the community”, the office tweeted.

Floods were also reported in Shaktoolik, a small town on the Bering Sea coast. Overnight, there were multiple gusts over 75 mph, which would qualify them as hurricane strength recorded on Adak Islandpart of the Aleutian Islands.

The extreme weather prompted Alaska Airlines to cancel its Saturday flights to Nome and Kotzebue and a morning flight to Bethel, it said in a statement.

flight tracker FlightAware said eight flights to or from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport were canceled Saturday and 35 were delayed.

Water flows down Front Street, just half a block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, September 17, 2022.
Water flows down Front Street, just half a block from the Bering Sea, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday.Peggy Fagerstrom / AP
Water surrounds the Mini Convention Center, which is also home to the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday, September 17, 2022.
Water surrounds the Mini Convention Center, which is also home to the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in Nome, Alaska, on Saturday.Peggy Fagerstrom / AP

The front, moving north, represents a strange concoction for Earth scientists.

“It gets its energy from the warm sea surface,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Shriver, speaking from Anchorage. “This is an exceptionally rare event.”

The National Weather Service office in Fairbanks warned the storm could be the strongest in more than a decade.

“The impact could be greater than the 2011 Bering Sea superstorm, and some locations could experience the worst coastal flooding in nearly 50 years,” it said in a statement. tweet Thursday. “Peak water levels will last 10 to 14 hours before the water recedes.”

During a video briefing about the storm Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Plumb said the front exceeded those expectations, at least when it came to storm surge, which was 6 to 8 feet above the median high tide at Point Hope in the Chukchi Sea on Saturday and at 10 to 12 feet along the shoreline of the Bering Sea.

“The Nome wave surpassed the 2011 super storm and the big storm of 1974,” he said.

On the state’s west coast, Plumb said the storm had not yet reached its peak, which was expected Saturday night. The Yukon Delta could experience the worst flooding of the event.

“We expect the water level to continue to rise,” he said.

Buoys on Friday registered waves of over 50 feet in the south-central Bering Sea, and the lowest pressure ever recorded in the sea in September was recorded Friday but remained unverified, Shriver said.

US Coast Guard Petty Officer Ian Gray said on Saturday the seas along the state’s west coast were 25 to 30 feet, with winds of 30 mph. Small boats were advised to stay in port and the agency had at least two cutters in the Bering Sea and two helicopters on Kodiak.

“We’re ready,” Gray said.

The State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management called for a heightened state of consciousness as a “strong storm” was on the way.

“There has never been such a strong September storm in the northern Bering Sea region in the past 70 years,” tweeted Rick Thoman, climate specialist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

A coastal flood warning and high winds warning was in effect off the coast of Alaska’s southern Seward Peninsula through Sunday.

High winds and heavy rain can be expected in mainland Alaska for much of next week, federal forecasters said. A second, weaker pulse was expected to make landfall at the front Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service.

By the end of the week, calm on the mainland was possible, forecasters said.

By then, however, Alaska’s winter weather machine may have already started producing the kind of low-pressure systems that are a trademark of December, January, February and March — with a few days of summer left on the calendar.

“It could be the start of our busy time of year,” Shriver said.

Jacob Cavaianic and Erick Mendoza contributed.


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