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. Jakeman

    In nome right now. The snow is now slush and turning into rain. Winds keep gusting but the visibility is higher than the last few hours. Power has not been lost once! Way to go NJU! 911 services have a temp number, the service number is failing, but the neighborhood network is in full swing. All looking out for each other like good Nomeites do. keep hunkered down and warm. We're past the halfway mark!

    November 9, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • CrazyOwlLady

      Stay safe, Jake. Thanks for taking the time to report in.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Jakeman

      Funny reading some of these posts. Yes we have land lines and cell phones. No, we don't have trees in Nome. We like oil but pay way too much for it. The storms are regular, but this one is supposed to be worse. It is fall, but we call it winter when the snow sticks and stays put. New report they shut down front street for debris. Reports of roofing materials flying. City vehicles on patrol. Power is still on. Rain is blowing hard, but no stronger than 45 mph right now. Sarah....eh...some yes, some no.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      you're NOT actually

      November 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mercenary

    What makes me laugh is here in the Northeast, when we get 2-to-3 inches of snow, school is canceled and they act like it's armageddon...roflmao...it's just so funny...apparently, no one remembers the blizzards we used to get back in the glorious 1960's and 1970's...

    November 9, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      Or you know maybe they don't cancel school in the northeast for that little snow. Generally when they do cancel for that amount it is because a larger amount was predicted and if busses etc. get stuck in the snow or start running hugely late due to the snow it causes a huge mess, but most of the time if it is only a few inches school stays open.

      As for the notes about the 70's I suspect if you look at you will find that on average they got the same amount of snow then as we do now and I would bet they ended up canceling about the same amount of days too.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • star

      apparently you dont, either. Read the statistics.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Richard

    Why can't they just call it what it IS.. a hurricane?

    When your definition of something is challenged .. change the definition!

    This hurricane should have been named... but no.. ... Can anyone guess why not?

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

      Because hurricanes are not suppose to form in the Arctic!!!

      November 9, 2011 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Because it is not a hurricane. A hurricane or cyclone is a storm of circular motion. The characteristic that separates tropical cyclones from other cyclonic systems is that at any height in the atmosphere, the center of a tropical cyclone will be warmer than its surroundings. It is a storm....a strong storm, but still a storm.

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

      Thanks for the response Billy. I guess the center of this storm has been measured to be much cooler than the surrounding air?
      Maybe they need a new category of hurricane.. I just feel like this past year there have been more than a few storms that meet most, but not all the requirements to be called a hurricane, that were not in the tropics.
      I do believe in climate change and I do think it is happening more quickly as the ice melts and the ocean becomes more diluted... and I think we will have more of the same going forward.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • paul

      The "Perfect Storm" off the Massachusetts coast wasn't named either because it's didn't form in the tropics. Maybe it should have been. Lives could have been saved.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • dt

      A hurricane – or typhoon – or cyclone (depending upon where you are at) is a cyclonic storm as it is a rotating weather mass like a tornado only a LOT larger. It is my understanding that the Alaskan storm is not cyclonic. Cyclonic storms form when cold and warm air masses collide and in the case of a hurricane it draws energy from the warm water below it.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • dont ask

      "hurricane" (the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific Ocean east of the dateline, or the South Pacific Ocean east of 160E)
      "typhoon" (the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline)
      "severe tropical cyclone" or "Category 3 cyclone" and above (the Southwest Pacific Ocean west of 160°E or Southeast Indian Ocean east of 90°E)
      "very severe cyclonic storm" (the North Indian Ocean)
      "tropical cyclone" (the Southwest Indian Ocean)

      November 9, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Ally

      Richard, This is not a "hurricane" by definition because the convective processes that form a hurricane are warm core based. Google 'hurricane carnot cycle'. This Alaskan storm is just a normal low pressure system. It IS cyclonic, but doesn't sustain itself like a tropical hurricane does. The central pressure of this system is unusually low, which contributes to the strong winds.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Shove it, FB

    .

    November 9, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. purnellmeagrejr

    my compliments to the author of the story for not using "historic" – really an awesome writing job,

    November 9, 2011 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Grace

    this storm is GOD letting people know Global warming is here to stay and STOP the drilling in the Artic.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      wow. you really are something, aren't you?

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

      I prefer the term "Climate Change".. and I prefer to think that God's plan is bigger than throwing an unusual hurricane at us as a "warning"..

      November 9, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • JBHedgehog

      Hmm...interesting twist. Were I not an atheist I'd almost like to agree with you.

      November 9, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • cranky5

      sounds cold to me. Al Gore pay you

      November 9, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Grog Says

      Grace, i just talked with God
      he says you are wrong.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • dt

      I live in south Florida and when hurricane Charlie hit I looked skyward and asked 'why me'. Just then I heard a dog bark. I realized that I must have really p*ssed him off.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Joe Mama

      You're an idiot.

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

      I prefer the term WEATHER. It changes often.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cascabel

    The s.palin jokes r not funny they reveal the immaturity of the people making them my prayer of safety goes out 2 people in alaska

    November 9, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. JOE

    Let's face it, global warfare will continue here in the 21st century simply because the United Nations' mission and objective are not clearly stated and defined for one. Secondly, global unrest will continue to escalate simply because the permanent members of the UN all have differing views on what is aggression and what is not, what are war atrocities and what are not, what is a war crime and what is not, what are injustice and oppression and what are not and so on and so forth. And until these permanent members and influencial and powerful world leaders can find common ground and general consensus on how to go about implementing foreign policy, then the United States will continue to struggle to find support for military intervention abroad.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. JOE

    Sorry, wrong page! I was responding to Fareed Zakaria's article on the "Stans."

    November 9, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. Kat

    Come on enough with the sarah palin jokes she is old news, there are thousands of people who are being affected by this storm & there is the entire crab fleet including our favorite crews from deadliest catch out there! We had irene storm through us here in new england but she was nothing compared to this arctic storm.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Grog Says

      *** Come on enough with the sarah palin jokes she is old news, there are thousands of people who are being affected by this storm ***

      And not telling Sarah palin jokes helps these people how ?

      November 9, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      is sue with them? can always hop on the charlestown fleets

      November 9, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Diane

    Global weirding.

    November 9, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. john cartwright

    so none of these meteorologist extraordinaires that brave the warm tropic hurricanes that slam the continental didn't have the cajones to hold onto a tree in Nome, AK during an unusual artic storm with winds on par with a measily old cat. 2 hurricane? show me a weatherman with those stones and color me impressed.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • karen wharton

      "hold onto a tree in Nome..."

      A tree in Nome: good one. Last time I was in Nome, there was nary a tree to be found.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  13. Deathstalker

    I lived in Alaska before and they get bad weather all the time. This might be worse then normal but for the most part you will not hear anyone complain to much in Alaska this is just business as usual. Climate change/ Gloab warming may be an issue but I do not think it is going to be quite as big of an issue as everyone is making it out to be. The reason I say this is because the more water there is in the air mother nature will use that water to cool off. Storms will become worse though for some time and flooding and drout. People in Texas has no rain and people all along the Mississippi got flooded. I expect more and more of this over the next 10 years or more so people should prepare for more of the same in the near future. I believe in God but I also think he is willing to let us live and learn for much longer then many have predicted. I think we have thousands of more years left before God is going to show himself to us. We need to continue to better ourselves in any way we can. Green energy is the way to go and needs to be our primary focus now as a nation. Oil is nothing but black death here to kill most of us if we do not learn to use other means of energy and much sooner then those that sell it would like. They are lieing to us and slowing us down as much as possible.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      no rain in texas YET? HMMM...maybe we can send some their way. i know them.

      JESUS

      November 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. s kel

    Wow Alaska is getting a two for one deal. A hurricane and a blizzzrd at the same time. Please ,please ,please be safe Alaskans.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  15. david Baldwin

    Winter Storm???? Winte does not start until 22 Dec this year,,, I think,,,, it would be a Fall Storm.

    November 9, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Scott Neel

      @David Baldwin
      It is winter here in Alaska. Just because the calendar says December 22nd, doesn't mean the weather listens. Temperatures in southcentral Alaska dipped below zero last night with about 6-7 inches of snow on the ground that will stay until at least April. Winter is here and yes, this is a winter storm for us.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
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