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. realitybites

    He're a term that gets conservatives frothing at the mouth and growling about vast left wing conspiracies, "CLIMATE CHANGE". Cha Ching! Go on now, get frothing! Let's have a little rightie lunatic rant. How bout you Sarah, do you visit here much?

    November 9, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. awe

    love Florida !

    November 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tiff

      Cause its warm and wet instead of cold and wet? I'll take the cold.. it keeps the rif raf away!

      November 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • cory

      Take a good look around you, I'm sure you'll agree. Florida's the best of the land of the free. All of the good life, right here at our door. I'm Florida, need I say more

      November 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris HOnry

      It's true, if you like 6-7 months of 90 degree + with 90% humidity and don't mind air conditioning, FL is the place for you. But if you like 9 months of 72 degrees and cool dry breezes and can afford it, San Diego, CA is your place.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • agonyflips

      Florida's OK, but for all you retired folk there, keep one eye looking down for the alligators and crocodiles and the other looking up for the pythons and boa constrictors. Then you'll be OK.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    Hope everybody in AK stays OK.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • juridfire

      Yeah me too, I;m moving there soon.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. fiskenmann

    How stupid it is reporting the time line backwards in this article. A course in collegiate journalism must take an exasperating 2 weeks to earn a degree these days!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      depends. some people want to see what's happening right now rather than what happened in the past (even if the past is just 1 hour back in time)

      November 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • person

      It's a blog, not a report. Blogs always start with the most recent events first (including your own posting).

      November 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troop

      I know, it's so hard to scroll down and then up.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat ( in a hat )

    Sounds like it's time for some serious nose friction up there.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AK-born

    Is this our penance for "She" who shall not be named (S.P).... we didn't want her either, we swear!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • jorgath

      You named her. It's like calling You-Know-Who L.V. or T.M.R.

      Can we call the one you were referencing "Governor Thingy" in honor of "Lord Thingy?"

      November 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. icu

    Hope the crabbers are ok. Should be fishing king crab right know..

    November 9, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tiff

      That was my first thought too.. I hope they are ok out there.

      November 9, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. patricia

    Great comment fiskenmann. This is what snow blowers are for! I will pray for all of you 'up' there.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. rainlady9

    Would be nice if they showed on the map where the places are they're talking about, eg, Red Dog dock.

    Anyone remember how to build an igloo? Besides Mother Nature, I mean;-)

    November 9, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Randy

    Hopefully it will suck Sarah Palin out into the Bering Sea to never be heard from again

    November 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • heidi

      now which randy might you be? CT Randy? St Marys Randy?. there are a few high rollers here eh?
      maybe the storm will hit your fave club areaas?

      November 9, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. yuh

    this is stupid

    November 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bull

    Here's to all Coasties stationed in Alaska.I wish you well.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam mills QMCS Ret.

      That is a fact – it will be a very dangerous few days

      November 9, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. rene

    More evidence of global climate change abounds.

    November 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Plantiful

      I agree with you on your statement: bad year for weather "oddities":
      drought and fires in the south,
      extreme floods along the Mississippi,
      severe floods in Thailand,
      warm and wet New England (leaves are still on the trees) with a rare snow storm,
      same (previous) in Utah,
      and now an Arctic hurricane.

      That's just for this year. Perhaps our un-sustainable American lifestyle is about due for a change: either by our own hand, or maybe by something nature will induce. I prefer the former method.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Zaphid2010

    Has anyone interviewed pat robertson about this weather phenomenon?
    He blamed the Haitian people and some pact with the devil that he knows happened. You can't get any closer to the devil in AK than wasilla.
    Seriously though, good luck to the good people of AK. This sounds terrible!

    November 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • jorgath

      He'd just claim that there's folks up in Nome who 'have teh gay.' If they are, can you really blame them? It gets COLD up there.

      November 9, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. AKinCA

    Being born and raised in Alaska, I remember experiencing some pretty intense storms. Hope everyone back in my home state stays safe and has properly prepared themselves for things such as loss of power, heavy snow, etc.

    November 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
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