All eyes in Alaska will be on the remnants of Typhoon Merbok Thursday night as the system moves south of the Bering Sea before becoming the strongest storm to hit the state in more than a decade.
The National Weather Service in Fairbanks is urging coastal residents to finish preparing for the storm by Friday morning, as conditions will begin to deteriorate rapidly by Friday evening.
“This will be the strongest storm in over a decade, with impacts comparable to those seen since the so-called Bering Sea Storm in 2011,” Fairbanks weather service meteorologist Jonathan Chriest told CNN.
That 2011 Alaskan storm, with winds gusting over 90 mph, left widespread destruction. Like Merbok, the 2011 system was an extratropical storm. An extratropical storm or cyclone has cold air at its core, unlike a tropical storm or cyclone that has a warm core. Both can cause significant damage from strong winds, heavy rains and storm surges.
“When a big storm comes in, we always say ‘does it compare to the 2011 storm?'” Chriest told CNN. “This is the first storm since 2011 that we’re really confident … it’s going to compare in terms of impact.”
This week’s storm not only rivals the 2011 event, but is expected to reach a magnitude unlike any other for September.
The storm’s central pressure, a metric that can indicate how much wind and storm surge a system can produce, is expected to drop to 940 millibars, the number typically found in Category 3 and 4 hurricanes. In general, the lower the central pressure, the stronger the storm.
“We’ve never had a storm in September with a central Bering Sea pressure below 960 millibars,” Christet said.
On Friday, the remnants of Typhoon Merbok are expected to move into the Bering Sea and “bombard” it. This process is also known as bombogenesis, referring to a pressure drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. This means that the storm is rapidly strengthening and could cause significant damage.
Storms with large floods, large storm surges, 50 meter high waves and hurricane force winds.
“Nome-Council Road runs along the coast and that road can be washed out. It’s still September, so it’s still hunting season, so there’s likely to be hundreds of people hunting in the mountains north of Nome where Nome-Council Road runs,” Christet said.
Christet said many hunters are offline and may not have access to the latest storm forecasts.
“In addition to coastal flooding, shoreline erosion is also possible,” Anchorage weather service meteorologist Eric Drewitz told CNN.
“Hurricane force winds are expected in the Bering Sea. The western and central Aleutians are under a high wind warning for winds of 50 to 70 mph with gusts up to 90 mph. The Pribilof Islands are under a high wind watch for winds of 50 to 65 mph with gusts up to 85 mph.”
Coastal flood watches have also been issued for all of Alaska’s west coast from north of the Arctic Circle down the Kuskokwim Delta coast.
Although the main impacts of this storm are expected to be high winds and storm surges, rainfall accumulations cannot be ruled out. The anchor has already been exceptionally wet this year. In fact, it is on track to be the wettest year on record.
“Even if there is no rain (for the rest of 2022) they would end up in the 10 wettest years ever,” the weather service said. in a tweet.
While most areas will see about 1 inch of rain with this storm, some areas could see 2 to 3 inches over the weekend. Even though Anchorage only gets 1-2 inches from this storm, it will make this year one of the five wettest years on record.