Western Alaska faces devastation after historic storm

Alaska’s flooding began to recede on Sunday, with remnants of a typhoon battering the state with its most violent storm in years, showing the extent of the devastation.

The full extent of the storm’s impact may not be known for days, but residents on the state’s low-lying west coast are still grappling with flooding, power outages and other dangers. The affected area spans more than 1,000 miles of coastline, including “some of the most remote areas in the United States,” said Jeremy Zidek, public information officer for Alaska’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

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

Zidek said the storm continued in the northwest of the state. No casualties related to the storm have been reported, but Alaska State Troopers are searching for a young boy missing in the hard-hit village of Hooper Bay.

For years, scientists have worried that climate change has set the stage for a larger impact of large non-tropical cyclones in Alaska. Summer and ocean warming have resulted in greater-than-normal seasonal loss of sea ice, making the region more vulnerable to ocean inundation.

Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) declare a state of emergency Facing an “unprecedented” storm on Saturday. Communities on the low-lying west coast experienced severe flooding and high winds.

Roads – a rarity in the area – have been damaged and washed away. The storm surge knocked out communication lines, prompted evacuations and damaged homes from their foundations. An uninhabited house drifted until it got stuck under the Snake River Bridge.

Tide gauges at Nome, known for the finish line of the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, showed water levels were more than 9 feet above normal early Saturday, surpassing peaks during severe storms in 2011 and 2004, According to the National Weather ServiceA fire broke out at the Bering Sea Bar and Grill in Nome on Saturday amid high winds.

One offshore buoy Waves were reported at or above 35 feet for 12 hours, peaking above 50 feet, and winds above 70 mph for 11 hours.

Dozens of small indigenous communities scattered along the coast face unique challenges as they try to recover from the devastation ahead of winter, said Rick Thoman, a climate expert at the International Centre for Arctic Research.

“All of these communities, basically, have no road connections,” Toman said. “The setup here is very different from anywhere in the Lower 48.”

Toman said the runway must be safely cleared before the community receives critical supplies, as most goods in the area are transported by air or barge. Without electricity, those with full freezers risk losing food for the upcoming season.

“If your power plant goes out, if your home isn’t a generator, you can’t get electricity from anywhere else,” Toman said.

The system that punished Alaska over the weekend was the remnant of Pacific Typhoon Merbok, which merged with a pair of non-tropical storms as it turned toward the Bering Strait, a thin band of water between Russia and Alaska. Toman said it’s not new for Alaska to be hit by a front cyclone, but it came fast and hard this time, with a shorter-than-usual walk.

“This one is special because it’s grown so powerful,” Toman said.

It’s also unusually huge, bigger than Texas and almost as big as Alaska, according to Kaitlyn Lardeo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Winds in most of the affected areas were between 60 and 80 mph, she said.

“It’s important for us to let people know that these things are possible,” Lardeo said. “It’s devastating for many communities.”

Bethel Mayor Mark Springer said his town is about 60 miles inland from the Bering Sea, far enough from the worst-flooded areas to avoid most property damage. But in some places, water levels are “rising”.

Springer said he had heard that the village had lost fish racks and smokehouses as well as subsistence sheds where people stored gear and cars. His social media timeline is full of photos of flooding and evacuations. Many ships floated and sank, cutting off another vital means of transportation.

“The boats will be scattered across the tundra,” Springer said. “In some cases, they’ll have to wait until the ground freezes, then go over with a snow gun and try to drag them.”

Huge storm surges and high waves can cause severe beach erosion at any time of year, but the fact that the storm hits in September increases the risk of erosion. It’s also hunting season, which means hundreds of people who may be hunting in the remote Alaskan wilderness won’t get updates on the storm and could be stuck off the grid. The Nome Council Road, used by hunters and Alaskans to travel inland from the Bering Sea coast, has been partially washed away.

The small coastal community of Chevak also experienced major flooding, ugly, Newtok, Golovin and Shaktulikwhere multiple evacuations are required.

The region is particularly vulnerable to erosion, with parts of the coastline losing as much as 100 feet of land annually to the sea, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive climate change report on U.S. impacts, released in 2018.

“Longer sea ice-free seasons, higher surface 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 Kivalina in the northwest, Alaska, relocate to safer terrain,” the report states.

In Shaktoolik — home to more than 200 people — a berm made of gravel, sand and driftwood, which was used to protect the settlement from the sea, was destroyed, the Anchorage Daily News reported. Invasion. Residents were forced to evacuate and shelter inside the school.

“This is a very difficult issue to accept,” Mayor Lars Sookiayak told the paper. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Source link