ANCHORAGE, Alaska (TBEN) — A powerful storm that moved north through the Bering Strait on Saturday caused widespread flooding in several coastal communities in western Alaska, shutting off power and causing residents to flee to higher elevations.
The force of the water knocked some houses off their foundations and a house in Nome floated in a river until it got stuck near a bridge.
The storm is the remnant of Typhoon Merbok, a storm that is also affecting weather patterns as far as California, where high winds and a rare late summer rain shower were expected.
In Alaska, there are no reports of injuries or deaths from the storm, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Officials had warned communities that some places could experience the worst flooding in 50 years and that it could take up to 14 hours for the water to clear.
Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster statement for affected communities on Saturday.
One of the hardest hit was Golovin, where most of the village’s 170 or so residents took shelter in the school or in three buildings on a hill. Winds in the area were gusts in excess of 60 mph (95 kph) and the water level was 11 feet (3.35 meters) above the normal high tide line and was set to rise another 2 feet (61 centimeters) on Saturday before reaching the top .
“Most of the lower part of the community is all flooded with structures and buildings that are under water,” said Ed Plumb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.
Clarabelle Lewis, the facility manager of the tribal government, the Chinik Eskimo Community, was among those who took refuge on the hill overlooking Golovin. She and others rode out of the storm at the tribal office after securing things in their home from the wind and helping their neighbors do the same.
“The wind howled; it was noisy,” she said.
Lewis has never experienced such a storm in the 20 years she has lived in Golovin.
“We’ve had flooding a few times in the past, but it’s never been this severe,” she said. “We’ve never moved houses from their foundations.”
There were also reports of flooding in Hooper Bay, St. Michael’s, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, where waves broke over the berm in front of the community, Plumb said.
He said the storm will move through the Bering Strait on Saturday and then into the Chukchi Sea.
“And then it will kind of become a park and weaken just west of Point Hope,” he said of the Alaskan northwest coast community.
He said there would be high tides in the northern Bering Sea until Saturday evening, before declining to Sunday. Rising water levels further north, in the Chukchi Sea and Kotzebue Sound areas, are expected to continue through Sunday.
In Northern California, wind gusts of up to 40 mph were forecast on Saturday night along coastal areas from Sonoma County to Santa Cruz and at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada, the National Weather Service said.
Winds of that force can topple branches and drought-stricken trees and cause power outages, said weather service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun.
Storms were expected to begin Sunday morning and dump up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain in coastal Sonoma County areas and slightly less as rain moved south into the San Francisco area and into the Santa Cruz mountains. pull, said Walbrun.
“It’s quite a downpour for this early in the season,” he said, adding that the storms are expected to continue through Monday and that the commute to work would make it wet with slippery roads.
In the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of the state capital of Sacramento, firefighters have fought the largest wildfire in that state this year. Although rain was needed, the winds were a concern for the crews fighting the Mosquito Fire, which had contained 21% on Saturday morning.
“The winds will certainly cause erratic fire behavior” that could ignite new hot spots, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said, but the rains will bring welcome moisture. “The rain won’t put out the fire, but it will help.”
Gecker reported from San Francisco.