September 28, 2022

Western Alaska braces for strongest storm in years

One of the worst storms to hit Alaska in half a century is expected to hit western parts of the state over the weekend, with meteorologists warning that the dangerous weather system will bring 90 mph winds and heavy rain and create significant coastal damage. flood

The remnants of the tropical storm, Typhoon Merbok, were forecast to move north through the Bering Sea region from Friday to Sunday. According to the National Weather Service. Coastal flood warnings and high wind warnings were issued for Nome, Stebbins to the south, Point Hope to the north and other areas.

“It looks like this could be one of the worst storms we’ve seen in at least 50 years,” Scott Berg, a meteorologist with the Weather Service in Fairbanks, Alaska, said late Thursday.

Conditions were expected to worsen along the southern coast of the Bering Strait points north by Friday night.

Emergency workers in the state are mostly concerned about “wind-driven sea surges” because many areas in the danger zone are low-lying and flat, Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Friday.

Preparing for such a storm in a geographically widespread area, where communities often have a few hundred people or less and are far from each other, presents significant challenges for state emergency workers, Mr. Zidek said. Putting resources like extra firefighters in communities ahead of a storm makes sense in heavily populated areas but isn’t practical in Alaska, he said.

“We have to take a wait-and-see approach before we use the limited resources we have,” said Mr. Zidek said. “Alaska is a different animal.”

Coastal flooding is expected south of the Bering Strait, with parts of the Seward Peninsula likely to rise more than 12 feet above the normal high tide line, forecasters said. Wind gusts of up to 90 mph are forecast on the coast.

“Coastal residents south of the Bering Strait are encouraged to end preparations early,” meteorologists stressed in a Thursday night weather report. Officials of the State Transport and Public Facilities Department They said they are monitoring the situation Assess the damage caused by the passage of the storm. Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management published a similar message.

North of the Bering Strait, storm conditions are expected to be milder, with winds gusting to 65 mph and coastal flood warnings are in effect Saturday morning for Kotchebu Sound and the Chukchi Sea coast. Water levels in the Kotzebue area may rise up to five feet above normal high tide and up to seven feet along the Chukchi coast.

For most communities in the storm’s path, Mr. According to Berg, the biggest concern was the potential for infrastructure damage.

“We’re seeing communities flooded,” he said, adding that small villages that rely on supplies and airstrips to get people in and out of the city may be submerged in some areas. Strong winds are also likely to cause widespread power outages.

“We get storms many times in the winter, but this is a significant storm that’s going to push water into areas that haven’t flooded in 50 years or more,” he said.

Residents of western Alaska can remember when it was 2011 Powerful system with hurricane force winds There was a power outage in the area. At the time, the weather service described the storm as “an epic scale rarely experienced.” Schools around the area served as shelters and provided food to residents.

In Nome, where the population is less than 10,000 and coastal flooding could reach 11 feet above normal high tide this weekend, officials were on alert. The mayor of the city, John Handeland, told the Associated Press An emergency shelter has been set up. Because of previous storms, he said, “we know where drilling and things are usually affected.”

Vimal Patel Contributed report.