Alaska braces for possible worst ever storm

Alaska braces for “epic” storm; evacuations begin

By Yereth Rosen | Reuters

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – An “epic” storm was bearing down on western Alaska on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, warning that it could be one of the worst on record for the state.

The storm, moving inland from the Aleutian Islands, was expected to bring hurricane-force winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour, heavy snowfall, widespread coastal flooding and severe erosion to most of Alaska’s west coast, the National Weather Service said.

A passengers sleeps inside the Alaska Airlines check-in area in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Achorage, Alaska
Photo By NATHANIEL WILDER/REUTERS

A passenger sleeps inside the Alaska Airlines check-in area in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Achorage, Alaska, November 8, 2011. Passengers were left stranded as flights in Anchorage were cancelled to villages in northwest Alaska as an “epic” storm was bearing down on western Alaska on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, warning that it could be one of the worst on record for the state.

“This will be an extremely dangerous and life threatening storm of an epic magnitude rarely experienced,” the service said in a special warning message.

Nome and the rest of the Seward Peninsula, a section of land that juts out toward Siberia, were expected to be the hardest-hit areas, said Andy Brown, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport

Image via Wikipedia

“It’s going very far north,” he said.

Officials in Nome issued an evacuation order late on Tuesday for people living along Front Street, a beachside avenue that serves as the finish line for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and for other low-lying areas in town.

At least three other communities were housing residents in local shelters as of Tuesday afternoon, said Bryan Fisher, chief of operations for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

But long-distance evacuations from the remote region were not considered feasible, Fisher told a media briefing in Anchorage.

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“Air traffic will not be flying in the weather that we’re expecting in the
next 24 to 48 hours,” he said.

Posing an additional threat is the lack of sea ice off northwestern Alaska,
forecasters said.

The last time a storm of a similar magnitude was sent in the same northward direction was 1974, but the sea surface was much more frozen then, Brown said.

“History tells that the sea ice helps subdue the storm surge,” Brown said. “With no sea ice there, we could see the full brunt of that 6- to 9-foot storm surge.”

Arctic sea ice this year reached the second-lowest coverage since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergen...

“Forty years ago, a big storm like this would come through and the sea ice would act as sort of a buffer,” said Mark Serreze, director of the Snow and Ice Data Center.

“The Bering Sea has and always will have these strong storms. What is
different now is their potential destructiveness as you lose the sea ice cover,” he added.

Federal, state and local agencies were making emergency preparations in advance of the storm. The state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management set up an incident command, with numerous agencies coordinating responses.

The U.S. Coast Guard said it has staged helicopters in the region and sent a cutter to prepare for emergency responses, with a special focus on the crab-fishing fleet.

Numerous government agencies have set up an incident command, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Nome, with 3,600 residents, is one of the largest cities in western Alaska. The communities spread along the coastline are mostly traditional Native settlements, with a few hundred to a few thousand inhabitants, and no roads linking communities.

Although the region is sparsely populated, the storm presents significant dangers, Alaska Senator Mark Begich said in a written statement.

“I realize we are in a remote part of the country, but many people and communities are in harm’s way,” Begich said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)

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Halloween Blizzard of 1991

Halloween Blizzard of 1991 Revisited

Duluth, MN (Northland’s NewsCenter) – 20 years ago, one of the biggest blizzards ever to hit the Northland, slammed the area with a vengeance. It was the 1991 Halloween Blizzard, or the Mega Storm as it’s known.

 James Cheng writes

Judging just from the photograph you would think this storm happened more than 20 years ago …

The Duluth News-Tribune via AP

In this Nov. 4, 1991,  file photo, Residents of Duluth, Minn., work to dig out their cars after a multi-day storm dropped 37 inches of snow on the city. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the storm, often called the Halloween Blizzard.

Snow, Wind and some more snow.  It’s the storm that caught everyone off guard. The National Weather Service said there would be a storm, but no one expected what we got slammed with.

“We knew there was going to be a big storm, we had forecasted a storm, and we had a winter storm warning, but for about 12″ of snow.”

The logo of the United States National Weather...

What fell was around 36.9′ inches over three days. More than 2′ for Douglas and Lake Counties.

So the question on the minds of many is could we see another Mega Storm this winter. The good news is it’s not likely, the bad news is we are in for a harsh winter as La Nina takes hold.

“We took a look back at our past La Nina years and here in Duluth, we’ve been during a strong La Nina year we’ve been average of up to a degree below normal.  Up at International Falls, they can average up to 5 degrees below normal for a winter.”

La Nina can also mean more snow.

Duluth could average up to five inches more snow than during a normal winter.

Remember, we’re looking for your pictures of the storm! Send them to weather@northlandsnewscenter.com

Posted to the web by Adam Clark aclark@northlandsnewscenter.com