Arctic 'hurricane' slams Alaska
November 9th, 2011
05:35 PM ET

Arctic 'hurricane' slams Alaska

A winter storm of hurricane strength was slamming Alaska early Wednesday with winds of up to 100 mph, high seas and blizzard conditions.

The National Weather Service called the storm moving into the state off the Bering Sea "a powerful and extremely dangerous storm of record or near-record magnitude."

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[Updated at 5:35 p.m. ET] The Facebook page for the National Weather Service in Alaska warns that although skies may be clearing near parts of the back side of the storm, more coastal flooding is expected.

"A major peak in Norton Sound and from Kotzebue Sound up to Point Hope will be coming this evening and tonight. Please don't let the weakening winds trick you into thinking the worst is over in Norton Sound up to Point Hope," the page says.

One to 3 inches of additional snow, near-zero visibility and sustained winds of 30 to 50 mph - with gusts of up to 60 mph - were expected in and around Kotzebue on Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service said.

To the north, along the Chukchi Sea coast, including the village of Kivalina, sea levels may rise 3 to 5 feet above normal Wednesday afternoon, according to the weather service.

"High waves will push water onshore starting Wednesday afternoon, especially at the village of Kivalina," the weather service said on its Alaska Region Headquarters website, warning of severe flooding. "Coastal residents in the warned area should take precautions now to protect life and property and be on the alert for rising water levels. Do not delay in taking needed precautions for this unusually severe and potentially life threatening storm."

[Updated at 5:12 p.m. ET] Water is expected to rise about 2 more feet this evening in Nome, where water already has moved to the base of some buildings, National Weather Service forecasters told the Anchorage Daily News.

"So the threat of flooding is not over yet and it could be a little bit worse, this afternoon and this evening until later tonight," Bob Fischer, lead forecaster for the weather service office in Fairbanks, told the Daily News.

[Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET] Frigid winds like those now ripping across the Bering Sea into Alaska can cause more damage than warm winds, meteorologists tell the Christian Science Monitor.

"Cold air impacts the water more and can push the momentum of the wind into the water more," meteorologist Jim Brader of the National Weather Service's Fairbanks office told the Monitor.

Brader also said the winds moving in the same direction over a distance of about a thousand miles, something that means bigger waves and more water pushed ashore, according to the Monitor report.

That means people on low-lying islands and coastal areas may face big trouble, according to the report.

In fact, the village of Point Hope points out on its website how it had to move parts of the village to a new site during the 1970s because of the effects of storm surge and erosion.

[Updated at 12:36 p.m. ET] The wind chill at Red Dog Dock south of Kivalina, Alaska, was -14.1 degrees Fahrenheit at 8 a.m. local time, according to measurements from the NOAA's National Data Buoy Center. Winds were gusting to 70 mph and the temperature was 12.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The rate of ice accertion, the process of ice building up on solid objects, was more than 15.6 inches an hour, according to the NDBC data.

[Updated at 12:16 p.m. ET] KNOM radio in Nome, Alaska, reports via Twitter that a two-foot diameter log, ice and rocks the size of fists are being blown along Front Street in the town.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m. ET] Major coastal flooding and severe beach erosion is expected along the northern and eastern shores of Norton Sound, the National Weather Service reports. Sea levels are forecast to rise 8 to 10 feet and strong winds may push ice in Norton Bay onshore through Wednesday night, forecasters say.

[Updated at 10:04 a.m. ET] A Twitter user says their mother's house in Kotzebue, Alaska, is shaking so hard in the wind that the woman fell down.

[Updated at 9:53 a.m. ET] The storm is pushing water in to Norton Sound and flooding is anticipated in communities along Alaska's western coast, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Berg, told CNN Wednesday morning.

Water has moved up to the base of some buildings in Nome and is expected to continue to rise, Berg said. The weather service also has reports of roofs being torn off buildings by high winds in Nome, he said.

The highest gust reported in the storm so far is 89 mph in Wales, Alaska, Berg said.

The weather service has not reported any significant snow accumulation so far, but it has been snowing continuously in some areas since Tuesday, he said.

"When the snow is flying sideways, it's kinda hard to go out and see how much is falling," Berg said.

The center of the storm is pushing northward and will turn to the north-northwest later in the day, he said. Communities including Kivalina and Point Hope will see worsening conditions, according to Berg.

[Updated at 9:34 a.m. ET] The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hydrometeorological Prediction Center reports the storm is generating waves as high as 40 feet in the Bering Sea. Wind gusts up to 83 mph in Cape Lisburne, Alaska, and 76 mph in Wales, Alaska, the agency said.

[Posted at 6:32 a.m. ET] Early Wednesday, Twitter reports said wind speeds in Nome in northwestern Alaska had reached 100 mph. That would be the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane if it occurred in the tropics. Twitter postings reported structural damage in Nome, including the roof blown off a building. Landline phones were down, according to a Twitter post.

"These things get named hurricanes down south and get a category. It's that magnitude," said Jeff Osiensky, regional warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Anchorage Daily News. The storm's scope was also hurricane-like, he said, covering 750 to 1,000 miles in breadth.

Chip Leeper, incident commander with the Nome government, told CNN that people in low-lying areas and on along the town's sea wall had been advised to seek shelter elsewhere.

National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Kearney told CNN that Nome could endure sea levels up to 8 feet above normal as well as 10-foot waves.

Other coastal and island villages were preparing evacuations if surf became too high.

Inland, the storm was expected to produce blizzard or near-blizzard conditions across western Alaska, the weather service said. Snow accumulations of up to 14 inches were possible. A Twitter poster reported winds gusts of 50 mph in the inland village of Aniak early Wednesday.

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Filed under: Alaska • Hurricanes • Weather • Winter weather
soundoff (226 Responses)
  1. Shane

    Landline phones were down? They still have those?

    November 9, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Even cell phones use landlines.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      ya, they're diff from the obama phones where ur names are all on the list of monitors

      November 9, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Go Heels

    I hope the crab fleet is OK.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. IHopper

    what's a landline?

    November 9, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • HistoricalOracle

      Its what people used before the mobile phone.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • dragonwife

      It's what people in scattered, remote areas use because there's no cell phone coverage available.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Stu

      That is when you tie a string between two tin cans. One person talks into one tin can and the other can hear what they said in the other tin can.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      its a phone u actually pay for as opposed to being handed one, or illegal ones

      November 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • heidi


      November 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Diana

    Something really awful is going to happen to you soon. Karma is a b*$ch!

    November 9, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • whatikno

      This is very True! Ignorance and Arogance will be dealt with first...

      November 9, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Romas

    I see that the ignorants have posted their moronic comments. It's a shame that people have become so stupid. This is a record making weather event, very impressive.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      Well..... Did you find hurricane Katrina 'impressive' with all the loss of life and property ?? Glad you were 'IMPRESSED' by Alaska's weather .... stupid .

      November 9, 2011 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Smarterthanu

      John you are an idiot....Katrina was no where near a record breaking storm. It's the fact that it hit a hugely populated area that was below sea level....You're welcome.

      November 9, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • smarterthanbotho'u

      katrina was record breaking... lol. It broke records on the amount of monetary damage it did

      November 9, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      thanks honan ronan

      November 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MightyMoo

    Hope people make it through things ok.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. Indiana

    Wouldn't this be considered a typhoon?

    November 9, 2011 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • john

      No .. A typhoon is what occurs when my wife speaks ... this is a mild gust compared to that .

      November 9, 2011 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Hey You

      A typhoon, a tropical cyclone, and a hurricane are all the same type of tropical system, just in different parts of the world. When a storm forms outside of the tropic, it does not get designated as such.

      John – nice one. Our wives must be related.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      I'm assuming it won't be long before she is your ex-wife after that comment. How rude!

      November 9, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahhahahahahah, nice one john, thanks for the chuckle, and Karen, I'm sure his wife will have her own comeback for him 🙂 Good luck John!

      November 9, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi


      November 9, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. kc_and_fa

    @Romas, I have to agree. Interesting weather we are seeing all over the world these days. As to the "Occupy the Comment Board" people. These are the lazy versions of the Occupy Wall Street groups in that they don't get out much. Too bad they won't go away when the weather gets bad the way the Wall Street ones will. I suspect CNN encourages them as CNN can use them to claim they have a high number of people reading comments.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • CrazyOwlLady

      No, they won't go away..... see story.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  9. Save it for Facebook

    For all the ones making jokes, there are very serious matters at hand all over the world n Sara Palin is not one of them. People should pay attention to all the possible AND very likely catostrophic events either expected or already taking place on our planet, from the dollar bill to weather around the world. Pay attention!! Or continue to be the one making jokes and wait for something to slap you in the face, cause you'll be the first to get slapped, not I!!

    November 9, 2011 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • ConTroll

      Shut up, miss. Been drinking your boyfriend's Kool-Aid again? You're the worst offender!!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      I lived in tornado alley most of my life, get hit to, but you know what, you know it can happen, you just can't let it consume your life.

      November 9, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  10. JOE

    I agree that people shouldn't joke with serious and tragic issues like this storm but people continue to poke at Sarah Palin because she's a disgrace to every living person, place and thing (except the idiots in the GOP and teaparty). And maybe when she grows up she'd eventually get some respect.

    November 9, 2011 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Save it for Facebook

      People are gonna do that and I don't care much about that but this being tragic, and this not being a play site but the official news site just gripes me! They could play on Facebook or Twitter, and don't forget myspace lol!

      November 9, 2011 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Maverick

      Joe, obviously your last name is Biden. Moron.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. grahame rhodes

    Is this anything to do with Sarah Palin

    November 9, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      You never know, but I would think it would be more hot air not cold.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      you should really change your name, you give urself away

      November 9, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cult of Personality

    My thoughts and prayers go out to the good people of Nome, AK, although, they may very well be used to these type of blizzard conditions up that way. I'm quite certain the polar bears welcome these weather conditions. Guess it's all due to global warming, huh?? LOL...

    November 9, 2011 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
    • CrazyOwlLady

      Um, this has nothing to do with sea ice or the conditions necessary for polar bears to thrive. I see you skipped science class... were you off smokin' weed in the john again?

      November 9, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joe L

    Wonder if it is crab season? Anyone with actual knowledge on the whereabouts of the crab and fishing fleet? Remember the US Coast Guard is out there!

    November 9, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. WOW!!

    School must be out today in many places today......cause there are alot of children playing on here and making pointless comments......

    November 9, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
  15. David

    Will you guys visit HelpFaye.ORG, its about a friend of mine who is fighting for her life.. Thanks

    November 9, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
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