Merbok: A powerful storm threatens to bring flooding and damaging winds to Alaska’s west coast communities


The system — the remnants of Typhoon Merbok — has been described by forecasters as the “strongest storm in more than a decade” as it moves over the Bering Sea in the North Pacific between Alaska and Russia.

“This is a dangerous storm that will cause coastal flooding south of the Bering Strait, approaching water levels not seen in nearly 50 years,” the National Weather Service warned in a Thursday forecast.

Along the Alaskan coast, the main threats are double the coastal flooding and 60 mph winds, larger gusts that can dislodge loose objects, damage buildings and down power lines.

Alaska weather officials also urged residents to prepare for the storm, which could threaten to overrun critical infrastructure and clear roads. The impacts of the storm are expected from Friday to Sunday morning, with water levels rising the most on Saturday.

“Some locations could experience the worst coastal flooding in almost 50 years. The highest water levels will last for 10 to 14 hours before the water recedes,” he said. weather service He warned in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Some areas including Savoonga, Diomede and the Bering Strait could see those conditions along with even higher wind gusts of 90 mph. Other areas at risk include the Chukchi Coast and Kotzebue Sound, the Fairbanks weather service said.

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.

Alaska last saw a storm this powerful in 2011, when it 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 which 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?'” Jonathan Chriest, a meteorologist with the Fairbanks weather service, told CNN. “This is the first storm we’re very confident about since 2011 … it’s going to compare in terms of impact.”

On Friday, Merbok’s remnants will move into the Bering Sea and “bomb out” in a process 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.

“The wind will blow early on Saturday morning around Shishmaref, and during the day on Saturday near the Kotzebue and Chukchi coasts,” the weather service said. “There will be coastal flooding, in addition to significant beach erosion.”

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 if Anchorage gets 1-2 inches from this storm, it will move this year into the five wettest years on record.

CNN’s Allison Chinchar and Pedram Javaheri contributed to this report.