Alaska storm brings ‘epic’ flooding, snowy weather and strong winds

November 9, 2011

A storm of hurricane-like size with unusual intensity has begun pounding the western coast of Alaska, bringing huge waves, high winds, flooding and blinding snow. As Jason Samenow reported:

A storm of historic intensity continues to pound the west coast of Alaska today. Twice the size of Texas, the storm is as deep as a category 3 hurricane. The National Weather Service is calling it a “life-threatening epic storm” due to its dangerous combination of towering waves (observed at 40 feet in the Bering Sea), winds over 100 mph, storm surge flooding, and blinding snow.

The storm’s central pressure bottomed out at 943 mb this morning, comparable to the minimum pressure (942 mb) of hurricane Irene, which caused billions in damage along the East Coast in late August. From this point forward, the storm - essentially a snow hurricane (or snowicane) - is forecast to slowly weaken, but will continue battering the region into tonight.

At the moment, the storm is producing screaming 50 to 70 mph winds along the entire west coast of Alaska (according to a coastal flood warning posted by the NWS this morning).

The strong onshore winds are piling up the water along the coast. Severe coastal flooding is expected/ongoing with tides 8 to 10 feet above normal and 15 to 20 foot waves. The winds may also push ice in Norton Bay onshore.

The tiny town of Nome, Alaska, home to 3,500 residents is being battered by the storm. Law enforcement and the National Weather Service are urging inhabitants to take all necessary precautions. As Elizabeth Flock explained:

Alaska’s weather has just turned from tranquil to scary. The Post’s Capital Weather Gang reported yesterday: “a ferocious, dangerous storm in the north Pacific is on a collision course with the west coast of Alaska” — and it’s now pummeling the tiny, 3,500-resident city of Nome. According to a special message from the National Weather Service,the storm may be larger than any on record in the area.

The service warned that “This will be an extremely dangerous and life-threatening storm of an epic magnitude rarely experienced. All people in the area should take precautions to safeguard their lives and property.”

The storm is predicted to have sustained winds of 80-100 mph, waves more than 40 feet high, and blinding snow. Officials in Nome issued an evacuation order late Tuesday for people living in low-lying areas.

Below, a round up of how to track the incredible storm, which has now made landfall, via the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal:

As the storm came across the Bering Sea officials rushed to alert those in its path that it was not a normal storm, even by Alaskan standards. As AP reported:

One of the most powerful storms to hit western Alaska in nearly 40 years battered coastal communities Wednesday with snow and hurricane-force winds, forcing some residents to seek higher ground as it knocked out power and ripped up roofs.

As the storm churned the Bering Sea, residents and emergency responders braced for a possible surge of sea water into coastal communities.

“People out there are used to extreme weather, but this is not a normal storm,” said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state’s emergency management agency. “This is of a magnitude that can be a storm of record, extremely dangerous, and the state is treating it as such.”

Water already has reached homes in at least four Native villages, including Tununak and Kipnuk, state emergency managers said.

Zidek noted there have been no reports of injuries, and damage so far has been largely limited to blown-out windows and battered roofs. Hooper Bay and Tununak reported scattered power outages.

The highest wind gusts recorded — 89 mph — were at Wales at the western tip of the Seward Peninsula, said Bob Fischer, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

More from The Washington Post

Weather service warns severe Bering Sea storm has potential for widespread damage

VIDEO: Powerful storm heads toward coastal Alaska

Alaska storm to produce ‘historic’ hurricane conditions

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