Alaska braces for powerful storm that would be strongest in a decade

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The strongest storm in a decade could hit western Alaskan shores this weekend as forecasters warned of a front carrying hurricane-force winds, massive seas and enough rain for coastal flooding .

A low-pressure front in the Bering Strait is spinning as wide and strong as any winter storm, but instead of bringing cold, it’s being fed by volatile air from former Typhoon Merbok, officials said. forecasters.

The result is a powerful system that could bring 3 to 5 inches of relatively warm rain to coastal regions over the weekend, and will impact the Alaskan Arctic Coast, Southwest Alaska and , possibly the Gulf Coast of Alaska, forecasters said.

“It gets its energy from the warm surface of the sea,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Shriver, who spoke 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.

“Impacts could exceed the Bering Sea superstorm in 2011, and some places could experience their worst coastal flooding in nearly 50 years,” it said in a statement. Tweeter. “Peak water levels will persist for 10 to 14 hours before the water recedes.”

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

A view from a webcam in Nome, Alaska on Friday, September 16, 2022.Alaska Ocean Observing System and NOAA via AP

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

“The impacts could exceed the Bering Sea superstorm in 2011, and some places could experience their worst coastal flooding in nearly 50 years,” it said in a statement. Tweeter Thursday. “Peak water levels will persist for 10 to 14 hours before the water recedes.”

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

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

Hurricane-force gusts — wind speeds over 74 mph — were recorded off Adak Island, part of the Aleutian Islands, Shriver said.

“There has not been such a strong September storm in the northern Bering Sea region in the past 70 years,” tweeted Rick Thoman, climate scientist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy.

Historic coastal flooding was possible, he said. A coastal flood warning and high wind warning were in effect Friday through Sunday for the south coast of Alaska’s Seward Peninsula.

High winds and heavy rain can be expected for much of next week on mainland Alaska, federal forecasters said. In fact, the system could land in two or three pulses, starting overnight, according to the National Weather Service’s extended forecast for Alaska.

Calm on the mainland was possible by the end of the week, forecasters said.

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

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

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