Alaska faces its strongest storm in more than a decade

(CNN) — All eyes in Alaska will be on the remnants of Typhoon Merbok as the system moves over the southern Bering Sea on Thursday night, before becoming what is expected to be the strongest storm to impact the state in more than a decade.

The National Weather Service in Fairbanks urges coastal residents to complete storm preparations by Friday morning, as conditions will begin to rapidly deteriorate Friday afternoon.

“This is likely to be the strongest storm in over a decade, with impacts likely to rival what we saw in 2011 from what is known as the Bering Sea superstorm,” service meteorologist Jonathan Chriest told CNN. weather in Fairbanks.

That 2011 Alaskan storm, with wind gusts of more than 90 mph (144.8 km/h), left a wide swath of destruction. Like Merbok, the 2011 system was an extratropical storm. An extratropical storm or cyclone has cold air at its core, unlike a tropical storm or cyclone which has a warm core. Both can cause significant damage from high winds, heavy rain, and storm surge.

“When a big storm comes, we always say ‘does it compare to the 2011 storm?'” Christest told CNN. “This is the first storm since 2011 that we’re very confident in… we’ll compare the impact.”

This week’s storm will not only rival the 2011 event, but is expected to reach a magnitude unlike any other during the month of September.

The storm’s central pressure, a metric that can indicate how much wind and storm surge a system can produce, is forecast to drop to 940 millibars, a number typically found in Category 3 and Category 4 hurricanes. the lower the central pressure, the stronger the storm.

“In September we never had a storm with the central pressure in the Bering Sea below 960 millibars,” Christest said.

On Friday, the remnants of Typhoon Merbok are forecast to move into the Bering Sea and are forecast to be “bombed”. That process is also known as bombogenesis, referring to a pressure drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours or less. That means the storm is rapidly strengthening and has the potential to cause significant damage.

The storm has the capacity to generate extensive flooding, significant storm surge, wave heights of 15.2 meters (50 feet), and gale-force winds.

“Nome-Council Road runs along the coast and there is a possibility that the road will be cleared. Since it is September, it is still hunting season, so there are likely to be hundreds of people hunting in the mountains north of Nome, where Nome-Council Road runs,” Christest said.

Christest said many of the hunters are off the grid and may not have access to the latest storm forecasts.

“In addition to coastal flooding, shoreline erosion is also possible,” Eric Drewitz, a meteorologist with the weather service in Anchorage, told CNN.

“Hurricane force winds are expected in the Bering Sea. The western and central Aleutians are under a high wind advisory for winds of 80 to 110 km/h (50 to 70 mph), gusting to 145 km/h ( 90 mph.) The Pribilof Islands are under a high wind watch for winds of 50 to 65 mph (80 to 105 km/h), gusting to 85 mph (137 km/h).”

Flood watches have also been issued for all coastlines along Alaska’s west coast, from north of the Arctic Circle to the coast of the Kuskokwim Delta.

While high winds and storm surge are expected to be the main impacts of this storm, rainfall accumulations cannot be ignored. Anchorage has already been exceptionally wet this year. In fact, it is on track for its wettest year on record.

“Even if it didn’t rain during (the rest of 2022), they would end up in the top 10 wettest years of all time,” the weather service said in a tweet.

While most areas will see about 1 inch (2 centimeters) of rain from this storm, some areas could see 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 centimeters) over the weekend. Even if Anchorage only picks up 1 to 2 inches from this storm, it will push this year into the five wettest years on record.

CNN Meteorologist Judson Jones contributed to this story.

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