Flood waters in Western Alaska receded after hurricane

Flood waters were receding in parts of western Alaska hit by the worst storm in half a century, leaving behind debris thrown by the powerful waves of the Bering Sea onto beaches and seaside communities.

The remnants of Typhoon Merbock weakened Sunday as the storm system moved north from the Bering Strait into the Chukchi Sea on Alaska’s northwest coast, where it still threatens small communities, National Weather Service meteorologist Caitlin Lardeo said.

“This guy is going to be hanging out in the Chukchi Sea for the next few days and will just loosen up quickly because he is so immobile,” she said.

Several communities reported that houses were blown off their foundations by the force of rushing water, often propelled by wind gusts of around 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour). One house in Nome floated down the river until it hit a bridge.

Many homes were flooded and about 450 West Coast residents took refuge in shelters, more than half of them at a school in Hooper Bay, where they ate processed elk donated by the villagers. Others survived the storm at higher elevations outside of their communities.

It was a massive storm system—large enough to cover the US mainland from the Pacific to Nebraska and Canada to Texas. This affected weather systems as far away as California, where a rare late-summer storm brought rain to the upstate, bringing some relief to fire brigades but also complicating firefighting efforts due to mud and loose earth.

The storm’s breaking waves caused extensive flooding and damage along the 1,000-mile (1,609-kilometer) Alaska coastline, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said.

There were no reports of people injured, dead or missing in Alaska, the governor said at a news conference Sunday. According to him, a child was later found missing on Saturday.

Dunleavy said roads are damaged and government officials are assessing potential damage to dams, water and sewer systems, airports and ports. He identified five communities – Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Golovin, Newtok and Nome – that have been hit hard by a combination of high water, flooding, erosion and electrical problems either in the cities or their airports.

Emergency Management and American Red Cross personnel will travel to these communities as early as Monday, while members of the Alaska National Guard will be sent to Nome, Bethel and Hooper Bay to assist residents. Red Cross Volunteers from Lower 48 will also assess food, water and shelter needs in other flooded villages.

The storm caused Nome’s highest water levels since 1974 – 11.1 feet (3.38 meters) above normal high tide – and other communities may have surpassed levels seen 48 years ago.

“One of the important features of this storm was the wide range of significant damage,” said Rick Toman, a climate scientist at the International Center for Arctic Research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“So, did he live up to the hype? I would say absolutely,” he said of the storm.

Becca Luce and her family live about half a mile off the coast of the Bering Sea in Nome.

“We have a pretty good ocean view from our living room,” she said. “We could see the waves breaking from our window and rolling across the road.”

Nome itself was flooded, including Front Street, the city’s main business street, which also serves as the finish line for the Iditarod Trail dog sled race.

One downtown restaurant, the Bering Sea Bar and Grill, was destroyed by fire Saturday night, but the cause and whether it was related to the storm is still unknown, interim city manager Bryant Hammond said.

The receding water has exposed debris left in the streets and yards, including debris, logs and other organic debris, rocks and asphalt, Hammond said. Part of the highway in Nome was washed out, he said, forcing residents to use a bypass road to get to the council community, adding 15 miles (24 kilometers) to the 72-mile (116-kilometer) trip.

“Another major concern is that the freeze is coming and all of this road damage will need to be repaired before the end of the month,” Lucy said, using a local term for the onset of winter, which in many cases falls in October. parts of Alaska. “And it’s hard to say if that will be possible, especially for remote villages without resources like Nome.”

Dunleavy, which issued a state disaster declaration on Saturday and is considering getting a federal disaster declaration, said Alaska officials intend to reopen communities as soon as possible.

“We just have to convince our federal friends that this is not the situation in Florida where we have months to work on it,” he said. We have a few weeks.

Rain in Northern California has helped firefighters tighten up the containment of the largest wildfire in the state this year. A mosquito fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of Sacramento was 34% contained after rainstorms early Sunday. More rain was expected, which fire department spokesman Scott McLean described as mixed.

“It helped a little to suppress this aggressive fire,” McLean said. “But now we will have new security problems because of all this dirt. And soil moisture can cause some of these damaged trees to fall.”

Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties north of San Francisco received an average of a quarter of an inch (2 centimeters) of rain overnight, with some mountainous regions recording more than twice as much rain, according to the National Weather Service.

Wind gusts of up to 40 mph (64 km/h) were forecast Sunday in coastal areas of Northern California and higher ground in the Sierra Nevada. Strong gusts of wind could blow away drought-stricken branches and trees and cause power outages, Meteorological Service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun said. He said thunderstorms are expected until at least Monday.

Weber reported from Los Angeles. AP journalist Nishit Morsawala contributed to this report from London.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

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