Remnants of Typhoon Merbok remain on Northwest coast of Alaska

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 9:19 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A strong low pressure system hit the west coast of Alaska on Friday impacting many communities with floods and high winds.

The remnants of Typhoon Merbok moved into the Bering Sea on Friday, September 16. The storm has continued to move north to the Chukchi Sea where it has remained and is expected to stay until Tuesday, September 20.

The storm has had major impacts along Alaska’s west coast where communities along a 1,000 mile coast faced the impacts of the storm. Sea water levels rose to varying levels with the highest rise being 18 feet above the normal tide line. The highest winds experienced by communities were over 90 miles an hour.

Acccording to Ed Plumb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS), due the extreme behavior of the storm which “surpassed the 2011 superstorm and also... surpassed the great 1974 storm that impacted Nome,” some communities in the area have seen infrastructure damaged or obstructed. This has included homes being ripped from their foundations, airport runways and roads being covered by water and fuel tanks spilling.

Noting the size and severity of the storm, which stretches a distance that is about equivalent to the distance between Idaho and Illinois, Plumb said, “this is the biggest storm that we’ve seen on that southern Seward Peninsula coastline in the last 50 years or more.”

On Sunday, meteorologists determined the storm was to remain in the Chukchi Sea until Tuesday, a correction from prior forecasts that had the storm continuing to move northeast. This means that communities on set along the Chukchi Sea will continue to be impacted by the storm longer and with a higher intensity than expected, however the communities of Utquigvik and Wainwright should be clear of any impacts.

In response to the storm, Governor Mike Dunleavy held press conferences on both Saturday and Sunday, during which he spoke about efforts to assess the situation in order to form a recovery plan. During the press conference on Saturday, Dunleavy also announced that he issued a disaster declaration at the state level. On Monday, the governor followed up by submitting a request for a Federal Disaster Declaration.

During both press conferences, the governor emphasized the need for a swift and encompassing response as communities along the coast are weeks away from freeze up which on average starts in the second week of October. According to the National Weather Service, sea ice will follow the initial freeze up. Usually sea ice will form in November.