Remnant of Typhoon Merbok threatens western Alaska with high winds and coastal flooding



JUNEAU – A large swath of western Alaska could experience flooding and high winds as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok move into the Bering Sea region.

The National Weather Service has coastal flood warnings in place, as of Friday, extending from parts of southwestern Alaska, including Quinhagak, to St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea and to the coast of the Bering Strait. The agency warned on Thursday that water levels in Nome could be up to 11 feet above the normal high tide line, and in Golovin up to 13 feet.

The coastal flood warning for the southern coast of the Seward Peninsula, including Nome, was in effect Friday evening through Sunday morning.

Damaging winds were possible, with widespread power outages expected across St. Lawrence Island and communities such as Wales, Nome, White Mountain and Golovin, the weather service said.

Forecaster Ed Plumb said the storm is strong and on a “perfect track to cause significant severe coastal flooding in parts of western Alaska…from the Yukon Delta south to the Seward Peninsula. and Norton Sound”.

“Interestingly with this storm, it looks like for the northern Bering Sea it’s going to be the deepest or strongest storm we’ve ever seen in September, so it’s quite an unusual storm,” said Plumb.

Beach and shoreline erosion is possible in some areas, with wind-driven waves and storm surges, he said.

Weather Service warnings said roads could be closed and low-lying properties could be ‘flooded’ for the southern coast of the Seward Peninsula, St. Lawrence Island and the Bering Strait coast

John Handeland, the mayor of Nome, said Thursday that officials were receiving weather updates and preparing. He said a recreation center has been set up to be used as an emergency shelter, if needed.

“We know the drill and where things are normally affected” by past storms, he said. Residents were asked to secure their boats and other items at summer cabins and fishing camps, he said, adding that there was a cruise ship in the area Thursday morning.

Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Office of Emergency Management, said officials plan on Thursday to speak with community leaders and others about forecasts, resources and preparations.

There is a large area under warning, and “it’s a powerful storm,” he said.

“We’ve seen storms like this, like in 2011, that caused severe damage on the west coast of Alaska and we’ve seen similar storms that didn’t do much damage. So we really need to see what will happen and then we will respond appropriately,” he said.

Plumb, the forecaster, said the storm is expected to weaken as it moves further north toward the Chukchi Sea on Sunday.

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