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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A powerful Bering Sea storm hit western
Alaska early Wednesday with high winds and surging seas, the
National Weather Service said.
Some homes close to ocean have been evacuated, but there are no
reports of injuries, he said.
A storm surge could bring more severe flooding later Wednesday in the
Nome area, meteorologist Scott Berg said.
Blizzard conditions prevailed overnight in quite a few places with
sustained winds of 60 mph (96 kph) and gusts to 80 mph (128 kph).
Berg said big low-pressure systems hit Alaska often, but this one is
different because of the track it took and because ice hasn't formed
yet to protect the shore.
"Because we don't have shore-fast ice this time of year, that's what's
significant," he said. "Just hasn't got cold enough yet. We have
open water generally until the first of December."
The unusual storm had western Alaska bracing Tuesday. Tiny coastal
communities were at particular risk for damage from wind and
expected flooding.
Winds had already reached 80 mph (128 kph) late Tuesday, said Neil
Murakami, a National Weather Service forecaster in Anchorage.
The storm surge could produce 7-foot (2.1-meter) rise in sea levels,
which would cause heavy flooding, meteorologist Stephen Kearney
in Fairbanks said.
State emergency management officials said some residents in the
storm's path headed for emergency shelters Tuesday.
State officials warned residents in harm's way to secure home heating
fuel tanks in case sea water flooded into communities.
The windows were boarded up Tuesday morning at the Polar Cafe, a
popular restaurant that faces the ocean in Nome.
Items stored in the basement had been carried upstairs and were in one
of the hotel rooms, said waitress Andrea Surina. Plans were
being made to move the propane tanks to a safer spot, she said.
The last time forecasters saw something similar was in November 1974,
when Nome also took the brunt of the storm. That surge
measured more than 13 feet (4 meters), pushing beach driftwood above
the level of the previous storm of its type in 1913.
Officials are concerned for Alaska Natives in the 18 villages in the region.
The village of Point Hope, which sits on the tip of a peninsula with
the Arctic Ocean on one side and the Bering Sea on the other, is up to
8 feet (2.4 meters) above sea level, Mayor Steve Oomittuk said.
The Inupiat Eskimo village of about 700 people has no sea wall and no
evacuation road. If evacuation becomes necessary, residents will
go to the school because it sits on higher ground and is big enough to
accommodate everyone, he said.
Smaller communities that are vulnerable to storm erosion were of
particular concern, especially the village of Kivalina, already one of
state's most threatened communities because of erosion.