Flood waters recede after storm hits western Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Floodwaters were beginning to recede in parts of western Alaska that were hit by the worst storm in half a century, leaving debris thrown up by powerful Bering Sea waves on beaches and in seaside communities.

The storm, a remnant of Typhoon Merbok, weakened on Sunday as it moved north from the Bering Strait into the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska. But there remained a dangerous threat to small communities along Alaska’s northwest coast, National Weather Service meteorologist Kaitlyn Lardeo said.

“This guy is going to be hanging around the Chukchi Sea for the next few days and getting weaker fast because he’s so stationary,” she said.

Crashing waves from the storm caused widespread flooding and damage along 1,000 miles of the Alaskan coastline, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy said.

It was also a massive system – large enough to cover the continental United States from Nebraska in the west to the Pacific Ocean and from Canada to Texas – that influenced weather systems as far away as California, where a rare storm late summer was bringing rain to the northern part of the state.

There have been no reports of injuries or fatalities in Alaska, the governor said at a Saturday night news conference. However, roads have been damaged and state officials are assessing potential damage to levees, water and sewer systems, airports and ports.

Several communities reported that the force of incoming water, often propelled by winds blowing at nearly 70 mph (113 km/h), knocked some houses off their foundations. A house in Nome floated down a river until it was caught under a bridge.

Many homes were flooded and about 450 West Coast residents sought refuge in shelters, more than half of them at a school in Hooper Bay, where they ate processed moose donated by village residents. Others weathered the storm on higher ground outside their communities.

The former typhoon caused the highest water level in Nome – 11.1 feet (3.38 meters) above normal tide level – since a major storm in 1974, and other communities could have exceeded the levels observed 48 years ago.

“One of the big features of this storm was the broad swath of extensive damage,” said Rick Thoman, climate scientist at the International Center for Arctic Research at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

“So did it live up to the hype? I would say absolutely,” he said of the storm, during which officials urged people to prepare days before it hit.

Becca Luce and her family live about half a mile from the Bering Sea coast in Nome.

“We have a pretty good view of the ocean from our living room,” she said. “We could see the waves crashing from our window and crossing the road.”

Nome itself was flooded, including Front Street, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare which also serves as the finish line for the Iditarod Trail Sled-Dog Race. The city’s mini-convention center, which also serves as the Iditarod’s headquarters for the end of the race each March, was surrounded by water.

A downtown restaurant, the Bering Sea Bar and Grill, was destroyed by fire on Saturday night, but the cause and its connection to the storm are not yet known, acting city manager Bryant Hammond said.

The receding waters revealed litter left on streets and yards, including trash, organic debris, rocks and asphalt, Hammond said. Cleanup was to begin immediately.

Part of a highway was washed out in Nome, forcing residents to use a bypass to reach the Council community, adding up to 15 miles (24 kilometres) to the 72-mile (116 kilometre) route, a- he declared.

“Another major concern is that frost is near, and all this road damage will need to be repaired before the end of the month,” Luce said, using the local term for the start of winter, which is October in many cases. parts of Alaska. “And it’s hard to say whether that will be possible, especially for remote villages without as many resources as Nome.”

Dunleavy, who issued a state disaster declaration on Saturday and is considering seeking a federal disaster, said state officials intend to get communities back up and running as soon as possible.

“We just have to make it clear to our federal friends that this is not a situation in Florida where we have months to work on this,” he said. “We have several weeks.”

Rain in Northern California helped firefighters tighten containment of the state’s largest wildfire so far this year. The Mosquito Fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of the capital Sacramento was 34% contained after downpours early Sunday. More rain was expected, which fires spokesman Scott McLean called a mixed blessing.

“It helped smother that aggressive fire a bit,” McLean said. “But we’re going to have new safety issues now with all the mud that’s out there. And the moisture in the ground could bring down some of those damaged trees.

An average of a quarter inch (2 centimeters) of rain fell overnight in Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco, with more than double that amount recorded in some mountainous areas, the report said. National Weather Service.

Winds of up to 40 mph (64 km/h) were forecast Sunday along coastal areas of northern California and at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada. Such strong gusts can knock down drought-stressed branches and trees and cause power outages, weather services meteorologist Ryan Walbrun warned. He said thunderstorms were expected intermittently through at least Monday, creating slippery roads during the morning commute.


Weber reported from Los Angeles. AP journalist Nishit Morsawala contributed to this report from London.

ABC News

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