Western Alaska was reeling on Monday from the most intense storm on record in the Bering Sea during September, which brought hurricane-force winds and record flooding along the coast.
Threat level: Officials reported Communities in Norton Sound were still affected by power outages, flooding and damage to homes, public buildings and roads, while water and sewers were also affected by the remnants of the typhoon and headed towards the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska Sunday evening.
- Because the storm hit in September, there was no ice near the shore to protect communities on the lower west coast from the wrath of the high waves and storm surge flooding.
- Social media footage showed entire communities flooded and, in one case, a house stuck under a bridge after floating downstream in Nome, the end point of the Iditarod sled dog race.
What we are looking at: As the floodwaters receded, an official with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) told the Washington Post the true extent of damage to property and infrastructure along some 1,000 miles of coastline may not be known for days.
- “Access to these [remote] areas is very difficult,” added Jeremy Zidek.
Meanwhile, Mike, Governor of Alaska Dunleavy tweeted that after declaring a state disaster on Saturday to activate recovery funds, his administration was preparing to file a request for federal disaster assistance on Monday.
- DHSEM said in A declaration this damage assessment would begin on Monday, with members of the Alaska Guard being activated and increasing in number throughout the week.
Our thought bubble: The Alaska storm resulted from a rare combination of climate change events. It started with Typhoon Merbokwhich formed in an unusual place for this time of year, thanks to warmer than usual waters in parts of the Pacific.
- As the storm moved into northern latitudes, it developed into an extratropical cyclone, feeding on the energy of the jet stream, except it also swirled over an area of abnormally warm waters.
- It added more energy to him. And instead of moving into the Gulf of Alaska, which is typical for this time of year, it jumped north into the Bering Sea. Once there, it became the most intense storm on record in Bering in September, and one of the strongest on record.
The big picture: The storm surge and the high winds it generated hit some of the most vulnerable villages in all of Alaska to the state’s rapidly warming climate.
- Breaking waves and erosion have already meant that villages like Kivalina need longer term plans to eventually relocate. Flooding from this storm caused more damage, knocking out airports on the state’s west coast by flooding runways.
- Flooding in Nome was the worst since a storm hit in November 1974.