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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 11/08/2011

Alaska storm to produce “historic” hurricane-like conditions


Storm surge forecast (left), surface map showing intensifying storm (right) (National Weather Service)
A ferocious, dangerous storm in the north Pacific is on a collision course with the west coast of Alaska. Referred to as the “Bering Sea Superstorm” by the National Weather Service Office in Fairbanks (NWS), damaging winds, severe beach erosion and major coastal flooding are expected. In some locations, heavy snow and blizzard conditions are also forecast.

“This will be one of the most severe Bering Sea storms on record,” the NWS wrote today.

The storm is predicted to deepen at an incredible rate, with its central pressure crashing from 973 mb this morning to 945-950 mb tonight.

“This storm has the potential to produce widespread damage,” the NWS in Fairbanks said.

Sustained winds of 80 mph (with gusts to 90 mph in some locations) may impact an area the size of Colorado with offshore waves to more than 40 feet according to the NWS Facebook page. A storm surge of 8 to 10 feet is predicted along the coast. The combination of wind, waves, and high sea levels will create many hazards as described by the NWS in a Special Weather Statement:

THE HIGH SEA LEVELS COMBINED WITH HIGH WAVES WILL PRODUCE SEVERE BEACH EROSION AND MAJOR COASTAL FLOODING ALONG THE NORTHERN AND EASTERN SHORES OF NORTON SOUND AND ALONG THE BERING STRAIT COAST. HIGH WATER LEVELS WILL PRODUCE COASTAL FLOODING ALONG THE SOUTHERN SHORE OF NORTON SOUND. STRONG WINDS AND WAVE ACTION MAY PUSH ICE IN NORTON BAY ON SHORE.

Blinding snow is another big concern. NWS cautioned:

THE STORM WILL ALSO PRODUCE SIGNIFICANT SNOWFALL AND BLIZZARD CONDITIONS OVER ALMOST ALL OF THE WEST COAST TUESDAY NIGHT AND WEDNESDAY. SNOWFALL AMOUNTS OF AS MUCH AS 14 INCHES ARE EXPECTED ALONG THE SOUTHERN SEWARD PENINSULA COAST AND IN PARTS OF THE INTERIOR SEWARD PENINSULA.

A direct hit is forecast for Nome, Alaska where the conditions will resemble a snow hurricane. Sustained winds of 45-60 mph (with higher gusts) and 8-14 inches of snow are forecast along with a storm surge as high as 8 feet early Wednesday evening (local time) at the coast. The NWS likens the storm to the November 11-12, 1974 storm which is the strongest in that city’s 113 years of records.

“Major differences between the 1974 storm and this upcoming storm include the fact that tides were much greater in the 1974 storm,” NWS said. “However, sea ice extent is currently much lower than it was in 1974, thus providing no protection along the coast and greater fetch.”

Additional resources: Coastal flood warning | Special Weather Statement | Winter Storm Warning | National Weather Service Alaska region | Dangerous storm threatens coastal villages of Alaska (Climate Central)

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 11/08/2011

Categories:  Latest, U.S. Weather

 
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