Severe storm headed for Alaska could bring devastating levels of flooding

Forecasters believe Alaska could be the worst hurricane in decades, as the remnants of a typhoon send hurricane-force winds and giant waves crashing toward its shores.

The remnants of Typhoon Merbok, which is now moving over the Bering Sea, are predicted to deliver devastating floods and devastating wind gusts beginning Friday night and lasting through the weekend.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Fairbanks have predicted that the effects of this severe storm worst coastal floods Rising waters may not subside for 10 to 14 hours in five decades and in some areas, warn residents to take “immediate action” to protect themselves.

The severe storm will also intensify coastal erosion that has already put villages and indigenous communities at risk.

“It looks like this for the northern Bering Sea, it will be the deepest or strongest storm ever recorded in September,” meteorologist Ed Plumb said. Western Alaska”.

The National Weather Service warned of coastal flooding starting Friday, extending from parts of southwest Alaska to the Chukchi Sea coast in northwest Alaska. The agency warned on Thursday that the water level in Nome could be up to 11 feet (3.3 m) above the normal high tide line and up to 13 feet (4 m) in Golovin. A Coastal Flood Warning was in effect for the southern Seward Peninsula coast, including Nome, from Friday evening through Sunday morning.

Officials urged residents to prepare themselves and their homes, as hazards from strong winds and heavy rain could submerge critical infrastructure and roads. AccuWeather analysts said the “monstrous sea” had already risen as high as four-story buildings by Thursday, adding that the worst is expected Friday through Saturday night.

Flooding and high winds can be seen across much of Alaska’s west coast as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok move into the Bering Sea region. Photograph: Leon Boardway / AP

With flooding, wind gusts of between 50mph and 75mph are expected, and can reach as high as 100mph through the state’s upper west coast and into parts of the Aleutian Islands, according to Mike Uman, the major hurricane warning at AccuWeather. meteorologist. gusts that can rip strong trees from their roots, break large branches, and topple poorly built homes and structures; Widespread power cuts were expected.

Officials are prepared for a worst-case scenario, but say Alaskans have experience navigating severe storms, including the historic 2011 Bering Sea superstorm, which was strong enough to peel off roofs of buildings, tankers. downed, wrecked boats and left extensive damage in its wake.

“We know the drill and where things normally hit,” Nome Mayor John Handland said on Thursday. Jeremy Zideck, a spokesman for the Alaska Office of Emergency Management, echoed his sentiments, noting that officials were engaging with community leaders and urging residents to prepare themselves.

“We’ve seen hurricanes like this one, like in 2011, that did serious damage off the west coast of Alaska, and we’ve seen storms that didn’t do a lot of damage,” Zidek said. But with such a large part of the region facing high risk, the storm has threatened to extend beyond the 2011 disaster.

Not only is the severity of the storm a concern – the timing of Merbok’s arrival is also important. At the beginning of the year, the region is without a strong snow cover, which helps protect against strong waves induced by hurricanes. The climate crisis has exacerbated the issue as warmer waters and higher temperatures have left less sea ice to blunt a rising ocean force.

Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the global average, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, an analysis of climate scientists on how climate change will affect the US, and sea ice is disappearing at an alarming rate.

It is the latest climate disaster to affect Alaska in recent months. The state has come under fire this year and over 3.1 million acres of land have been burnt so far this year. The climate crisis has produced hot springs and summers that have left the tundra coated in vegetation.

The Climate Assessment report highlighted the threat to coastal communities, with 87% of Alaska’s Native communities being affected by flooding and erosion.

For example, residents of the town of Yupik in Newtok have been forced to leave their lifelong homes in recent years due to rising sea levels; And that new community still sits in an area that could be hit by this weekend’s storm.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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