On Sunday, floodwaters in Alaska started to recede, revealing the damage left behind by the state’s fiercest storm in years.
It may be days before we know the full extent of the storm’s impact, but in the meantime, people all along the state’s low-lying western coast are still dealing with water damage, power outages, and other hazards. More than a thousand miles of coastline have been affected, including “some of the most remote areas in the United States,” as stated by Jeremy Zidek, public information officer for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
According to Zidek, the storm hasn’t let up in the state’s far northwest. Alaska state troopers are searching for a missing young boy in Hooper Bay, one of the hardest-hit villages, but no injuries or deaths have been reported in connection with the storm as of yet.
Scientists have worried for years that climate change will make Alaska more vulnerable to damage from large nontropical cyclones. Sea ice has been melting faster than usual due to warmer summers and oceans, making the area more susceptible to flooding from the sea.
#AlaskaStorm is ongoing: Governor Dunleavy has declared a disaster and the State of Alaska has formed an emergency operations center to respond. We're participating in those operations and will begin damage assessment once storm waters recede. https://t.co/1050ft0lgU pic.twitter.com/Jl3g5rVxLU
— Alaska DOT&PF (@AlaskaDOTPF) September 17, 2022
On Saturday, Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy declared a state of emergency due to the “unprecedented” weather. Communities on the western coast’s lower elevations were hit particularly hard by the storm’s high winds and flooding.
All of the region’s few roads have been destroyed by the storms. Communication was cut off, people were forced to evacuate, and houses were ripped from their foundations as a result of the storm surge. Under the Snake River Bridge, a single uninhabited house slid until it became wedged.
It was reported by the National Weather Service on Saturday morning that the tide gauge in Nome, Alaska, the terminus of the world-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, showed water levels more than nine feet above normal levels, surpassing the peak seen during ferocious storms in 2011 and 2004. The Bering Sea Bar and Grill in Nome, Alaska, burned down on a windy Saturday.
It’s not surprising that a September storm would cause significant beach erosion due to the combination of a massive storm surge and gigantic waves. A large number of people could have been cut off from information about the storm because it arrived during hunting season in the remote Alaskan wilderness. A portion of the Nome-Council Road, used by hunters and Alaskans to travel inland from the Bering Sea coast, has been washed away.