Bering Sea storm slams Alaska: Brutal winds, white-out blizzards

10 Nov

Anchorage, Alaska – The worst of a late fall storm to hit Alaska is yet to come as the eye of a Bering Sea storm passes northward into the Chukchi Sea.

“We expect flooding across the spit with as much as four feet of water when the storm surge comes and the wind shifts direction,” said Bob Douglass of Kotzebue a city 33 miles above the Arctic Circle.

The eye of the 955 millibar low pressure system was moving north from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Sea mid-afternoon on Nov. 9th.

Schools, stores and hospitals are closed until this storm passes over in Nome and Kotzebue.

Wreaking havoc with Bering Sea Coastal villages from as far south as the Pribilof Islands winds reported with gusts from 70-80 were tearing off the roofs of village homes, with debris flailing through the air after being torn from structures.

The village of Diomede located only 1.5 miles from Russian occupied Big Diomede (Ratmonova) at the Bering Straits was rocked by huge waves breaking on the islands south shore washing ship containers into the rock cliffs surrounding the village.


One St. Paul village elder said that several homes were missing their roofs after the storm passed through the Pribilof Islands last evening.

 Roofs flying through town, tin sheds screeching across streets, rocks the size of your fist on Front street zero visibility in high winds and snow drifts up to four feet high plagued the City of Nome some 300 nautical miles north of Anchorage.

“Last night we had high winds with gusts up to 75 M.P.H. it was shaking my house pretty good,” said Don Erickson of Nome. “Right now we are getting a sleet storm that is icing everything up as temperature warm. Last night it was Zero-Zero visibility my wife was freaking out as a backseat driver in my truck as we drove around surveying and looking for damage.”

web camera used to attract visitors to Nome with changing images of  Front St. seemed to be the first casualty of the storm when wind shook the device and repositioned its view from above Front Street to pointing to the skyline and its housing.

Erickson indicated that there was no apparent damage to Nome airport hangars and that the airport is open, but that there was no flying.

“I doubt anyone would be crazy enough to fly in this storm, nope I haven’t seen a plane in the sky since the wind picked up yesterday,” he said.

Nome is the terminus of the 1,100 mile Iditarod Sled Dog Race held in March from Anchorage.

As in Kotzebue, Nome is worried about a southern surge of water coming up over its sea wall, and around the breakwater up into the Snake River which could cause flooding.

One of the issues that complicate this storm is that the Bering Sea has not completely frozen over yet, allowing water to rush in with broken chunks of ice. Later this month the sea ice usually freezes to the shoreline bottom with what is called shore-fast ice.

Shore-fast ice can act as a wall from keeping water from flooding the streets of Nome in some cases when the wind is not strong. But when the winds are strong pressure ridges can ride up over the ice and push their way forward decimating anything in its way.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued warnings and Sigmets to the Alaska Aviation Weather Unit page for the Northwest area of Alaska and on Nov. 8 issued a Special Hazard to Aviation that covered the complete Seward Peninsula region.

Reports by NOAA and the National Weather Service have virtually all Bering Sea coastal villages located on the western coast of Alaska preparing for flooding in the next 24-36 hours.




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