Residents of the wide and thinly populated western shore of Alaska readied themselves on Friday for a major storm that forecasters said might be one of the worst in recent history, bringing hurricane-force gusts and high surf that could knock out power and trigger floods.
According to Rick Thoman, a climate expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Typhoon Merbok’s lingering effects can be felt far beyond Alaska’s borders. As a result, a rare late-summer storm is likely to provide rain to drought-stricken portions of California this weekend.
⬇️Forecasted peak water levels, timing, and winds. Water levels will be slow to fall, and water will remain at or near peak levels for up to 24 hours in some locations. #akwx pic.twitter.com/HpZb7kAm5Z
— NWS Fairbanks (@NWSFairbanks) September 16, 2022
He explained that the ex-typhoon was responsible for a chain reaction in the jet stream south of Alaska because of all the warm air it transported up from the tropics.
This storm system heading for Alaska is “historical level,” according to Thoman. “The storm that hits in September of 2022 will be remembered as a standard storm 10 years from now.”
Parts of the Bering Sea were expected to see hurricane-force gusts, and the National Weather Service predicted that sea levels might rise to 18 feet above the average high tide line in the small settlements of Elim and Koyuk, located about 90 miles from the hub community of Nome. Until Sunday, some regions were under flood warnings.
Leon Boardway, one of Nome’s 3,500 or so residents, was at work at the Nome Visitors Center on Friday, about a block from the Bering Sea. After the rain started falling and the gusts built up, he added, “I simply want to keep my door open and the coffee pot on.”
Not many people were passing by, though. Ahead of the storm, residents, tourists, and businesses in the town that is known as the finish line of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the location of the reality show “Bering Sea Gold,” boarded up their windows and made other preparations.