A mighty storm Hurricane-force wind gusts are expected to bring torrential rains and huge waves to Alaska’s west coast this weekend, threatening to cause major flooding and beach erosion.
The system – the remnants of Typhoon Merbok – has been described by forecasters as ‘the strongest storm in over a decade’ as it moves over the Bering Sea, which stretches north of the Pacific Ocean between Alaska and Russia.
“This is a dangerous storm that is expected to produce widespread coastal flooding south of the Bering Strait with water levels approaching levels not seen in nearly 50 years,” the National Weather Service warned Thursday in a statement. forecast.
Along the Alaskan coast, the main threats are a double whammy of coastal flooding and winds up to 60 mph with higher gusts that could move loose objects, damage buildings and bring down power lines.
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Weather officials in Alaska also urged residents to prepare for the storm as it could threaten to overwhelm critical infrastructure and wash out roads. Impacts from the storm are expected Friday through Sunday morning, with water levels rising the highest on Saturday.
“Some locations may experience their worst coastal flooding in nearly 50 years. Peak water levels will persist for 10 to 14 hours before the water recedes,” the official said. weather service in Fairbanks, Alaska, warned.
Some areas, including Savoonga, Diomede and the Bering Strait, could see these conditions along with even stronger wind gusts of 90 mph. Other risk areas are the Chukchi Coast and Kotzebue Sound, the Fairbanks Weather Service said.
Coastal flood watches have also been issued for all coasts along the west coast of Alaska between north of the Arctic Circle and the Kuskokwim Delta coast.
The last time Alaska saw such a strong storm was in 2011, when it left behind a wide swath of destruction. Like Merbok, the 2011 system was an extratropical storm. An extratropical storm or cyclone has cold air at its core, unlike a tropical storm or cyclone which has a warm core. Both can cause significant damage from high winds, heavy rains and storm surges.
“When a big storm comes in, we always say ‘is this comparable to the 2011 storm? “” Jonathan Christ, a meteorologist with the Fairbanks Weather Service, told CNN. “This is the first storm since 2011 that we have great confidence in…we will compare in terms of impact.”
On Friday, remnants of Merbok are expected to move into the Bering Sea and “bombard” in a process also known as bombogenesis, referring to a pressure drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. This means the storm is building up quickly and has the potential to cause significant damage.
“Winds will peak early Saturday morning near Shishmaref, and during the day Saturday near Kotzebue and the Chukchi coast,” the weather service said. “Coastal flooding will occur, in addition to significant beach erosion.”
While most areas will see around 1 inch of rain with this storm, some areas could collect up to 2-3 inches over the weekend. Even if Anchorage recovers 1-2 inches from this storm, it will push this year into one of the five wettest years on record.
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CNN’s Allison Chinchar and Pedram Javaheri contributed to this report.