Alaska braces for floods, power outages as huge storm nears

A houseboat is seen on the Snake River near Nome, Alaska, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022. Much of Alaska’s west coast could see flooding and strong winds as the remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved offshore from Bering. The National Weather Service says some places could experience the worst coastal flooding in 50 years.

Peggy Fagerstrom | Photo AP

Residents of Alaska’s vast and sparsely populated west coast braced Friday for a powerful storm that forecasters said could be one of the worst in recent history, threatening hurricane-force winds and large surf that could knock out power and cause flooding.

The storm is the remnants of what was Typhoon Merbok, which Rick Thoman, a climate specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said is also influencing weather patterns far from Alaska; now a rare late summer storm is expected to bring rain this weekend to drought-stricken parts. California

“All this warm air that’s been brought north by this old typhoon is basically inducing a chain reaction in the jet stream downstream of Alaska,” he said.

“It’s a historic-level storm,” Thoman said of the system heading toward Alaska. “In 10 years, people will refer to the September 2022 storm as the benchmark storm.”

Hurricane-force winds were forecast in parts of the Bering Sea, while in the small communities of Elim and Koyuk, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) from the central community of Nome, water levels could be up to 18 feet (5 meters) above. the normal high tide line, according to the National Weather Service. Flood warnings were in effect through Monday for parts of northwest Alaska.

In Nome, which has about 3,500 residents, Leon Boardway was working as usual Friday at the Nome Visitor Center, halfway up the Bering Sea. “I just want to keep my door open and the coffee pot on,” she said after it had started to rain and the wind had picked up.

But few people passed. Residents, visitors and businesses in the town, famous for being the finish line of the Iditarod Trail dog race and the setting for the gold-dredging reality show “Bering Sea Gold,” were covering windows and preparing for the storm. .

“The ocean is getting worse out there,” said Boardway, 71, checking the center’s webcam, which from its high perch has a good view of the waves.

“I hope everyone stays calm and everyone is in a good, safe position,” he said.

Typhoon Merbok formed further east in the Pacific Ocean than where such storms normally appear. Water temperatures are unusually warm this year, so the storm “was able to build up,” Thoman said.

Meanwhile, a low-pressure system was expected to drop from the Gulf of Alaska and park off the coast of Northern California, bringing strong winds before the rain moves away Saturday afternoon, the National Meteorological Service.

In the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of the state capital of Sacramento, firefighters have been battling what has become the state’s largest wildfire so far this year. While rain was called for, the storm was also forecast to bring winds that could spread the mosquito fire.

The storm will slow but not end California’s fire season because the fuels are so dry, and a period of warmer, drier weather will follow, said Courtney Carpenter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Forecasters said the weather system will spread rain along the state’s central coast, but little or no rain is expected across most of Southern California, where mountain and desert communities are facing the consequences. too much rain

Crews were cleaning up mudflows in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles after Monday’s flash flooding. Downpours from the remnants of a Pacific hurricane wreaked havoc in Southern California, with winds exceeding 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph) last weekend.

Rescuers on Thursday found the body of a woman who had been missing since mudslides swept away her mountain village. His remains were discovered buried under mud, rocks and other debris near his home.

The deluges added to damage to roads and infrastructure in desert national parks from summer monsoon storms.

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