Massive Bering Sea storm pounds Alaska

Nov. 9, 2011 at 7:59 PM
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NOME, Alaska, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- One of the worst Bering Sea storms on record pounded Alaska Wednesday with high winds, blizzard conditions and coastal flooding, officials said.

"A major Bering Sea storm is bearing down on western Alaska with a mix of strong winds, high seas, blizzard conditions and major coastal flooding," the National Weather Service in Alaska said Wednesday afternoon, while noting some of the storm's more hazardous aspects were abating.

"The massive storm center has moved north of the Bering Strait, allowing for the worst of the winds and blizzard conditions to weaken," center said. "However, conditions are very favorable for water levels to rise this afternoon and evening from Norton Sound, Kotzebue Sound, and up to Point Hope. Indications are the peak will occur before midnight in most locations. The peak water level that occurred [Tuesday] night in the northern portion of Norton Sound will be matched or exceeded by a foot or two. We expect a lull in the water levels overnight tonight, however another peak in water levels is expected Thursday."

The Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News said villagers in Kivalina -- where the local disaster response team reported blizzard conditions and wind gusts of 69 mph -- were transporting people to an emergency shelter at a school. Jeremy Zidek of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said Kivalina is among the communities emergency officials were most concerned about, the newspaper reported.

Forecasters said flooding was possible through 6 a.m. Thursday along the Chukchi Sea coast.

The National Weather Service said the Bering Strait, Seward Peninsula, Norton Sound and Yukon Delta areas were expected to take the brunt of the storm, which was expected to peak in Nome Wednesday evening.

"The wind will push large amounts of water into Norton Sound, raising sea levels 7 to 9 feet above normal," the weather service said in an advisory. "Over the Bering Strait coast and St. Lawrence Island, sustained winds are expected to reach 75 mph with gusts of 90 to 100 mph."

Bryan Fisher of the Alaska Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said emergency officials received reports that water has reached low-lying homes in Tununuk, Kwigillingok and Kipnuk, and that water levels were rising at the Yukon River Delta community of Scammon Bay, the Alaska Dispatch reported

Intermittent power outages were reported in Nome and the Yukon-Kuskokwim villages of Hooper Bay and Tununuk.

CNN said The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center reports the storm is generating waves as high as 40 feet in the Bering Sea.

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