Western Alaska faces damage after historic storm

Floodwaters began to recede in Alaska on Sunday, revealing damage after the remnants of a hurricane battered the state. Worst storm in years.

The full extent of the storm’s impact won’t be clear for several days, but residents across the state’s low-lying West Coast are still struggling with water damage, power outages and other hazards. The affected areas span more than 1,000 miles of coastline, including “some of the most remote parts of the United States,” according to Jeremy Zidek, public information officer for Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“It’s a very large area and the damage really varies quite a bit across that area,” Zidek said. “Access to these areas is very difficult.”

Zidek said the storm is still continuing in the northwestern part of the state. No injuries or fatalities have been reported from the storm, but Alaska state troopers are searching for a missing boy from one of the hardest-hit villages, Hooper Bay.

Over the years, scientists Concerned Climate change has set the stage for greater impacts from large tropical cyclones in Alaska. Warmer summers and oceans have caused a greater-than-normal seasonal loss of sea ice, making the region vulnerable to sea flooding.

Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) declared an emergency Saturday in the face of an “unprecedented” storm. Communities along the low-lying West Coast saw severe flooding and violent winds.

The roads – there are only a few sections of them – are washed away and washed away. Storm surge knocked out lines of communication, prompted evacuations and tore homes from their foundations. A derelict house moved until it got stuck under a Snake River bridge.

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A tide gauge in Nome, known as the final point of the famous Iditarod Trail sled dog race, showed a water level of more than nine feet. Higher than normal levels early SaturdaySurpassing the peak seen during the worst storms in 2011 and 2004, According to the National Weather Service. A fire broke out Saturday at the Bering Sea Bar and Grill in Nome amid strong winds.

A Sea float Waves of 35 feet or more were reported for 12 hours, with peaks over 50 feet, while winds of 70 mph were reported for 11 hours.

According to Rick Thomann, a climatologist at the International Arctic Research Center, dozens of small, primarily indigenous communities along the coast face unique challenges as they try to recover from the damage before winter arrives.

“All of these communities have basically no road connections,” Thoman said. “It’s a very different setting than anywhere else in the Lower 48.”

Runways must be safely cleared before communities can get critical supplies, Thoman said, adding that most supplies are moved by air or ship in the region. Without electricity, people with full freezers could lose their food for the coming season.

“If your power plant goes down, if you don’t have a generator at home, you can’t get power from anywhere else,” Thoman said.

The system punishing Alaska over the weekend is the remnants of Pacific Typhoon Merbok, which joined a pair of tropical storms heading toward the Bering Strait, the thin water between Russia and Alaska. Alaska is not new to landfall from ex-hurricanes, but this one came fast and furious with a narrower path than usual, Thoman said.

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“It’s special because of how strong it’s grown,” Thoman said.

It’s unusually large, bigger than Texas and almost as big as Alaska, according to Caitlin Lardeo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Winds gusted 60 to 80 miles per hour in most of the affected areas, he said.

“It’s important for people to understand that these things are possible for us,” Lardio said. “It was devastating to many communities.”

Bethel’s mayor, Mark Springer, said his city, 60 miles inland from the Bering Sea, was far enough from the worst of the flooding to avoid property damage. But in some places the water is rising “boot high”.

Springer said he heard villages lost fish racks and smokehouses and subsistence sheds where people kept their gear and motors. His social media timelines are filled with images of flood waters and evacuations. Many boats floated and sank, another major transport route was cut off.

“The boats would be scattered across the tundra,” Springer said. “In some cases, they have to wait until the ground freezes and go out with snow machines and try to pull them off.”

Massive storm surges and giant waves can cause severe beach erosion at any time of year, but the storm hit in September heightened the risk of erosion. It also came during hunting season, meaning hundreds of people hunting in the remote Alaskan wilderness may not have access to storm notifications and may be caught off-grid. The Phnom-Council RoadSome used by hunters and Alaskans to travel inland from the Bering Sea coast have been washed away.

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Major flooding was also reported in smaller coastal communities Sevak, Kotlik, Newts, of Colo And ShaktulikWhere multiple evacuations are necessary.

The region is particularly prone to erosion, with parts of the coastline losing 100 feet of land to the sea each year. Fourth National Climate AssessmentA comprehensive climate change report on impacts to the United States published in 2018.

“Longer sea ice-free seasons, higher subsurface temperatures, and relative sea-level rise are expected to exacerbate flooding and accelerate erosion in many areas, leading to the loss of terrestrial habitats and cultural resources, and requiring entire communities, such as the Kivalina in northwest Alaska, to relocate to safer land.” should,” the statement said.

In Shaktulik – home to more than 200 people – a berm made of gravel, sand and driftwood protecting the settlement from the sea was destroyed. Anchorage Daily News. Residents were evacuated and forced to shelter inside the school.

“It’s a very difficult thing to take,” Mayor Lars Soukiak told the newspaper. “Beautiful heartbreak.”

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