Bering Sea Storm Slams Western Alaska with Icy, Hurricane-Force Winds

One of the worst Bering Sea storms on record hit the western Alaska coast early Wednesday with high winds and surging seas, the National Weather Service said.

Authorities say that the powerful storm, sporting 50 to 70mph winds with occasional gusts as high as 100 mph (the strength of a category 2 hurricane), has already forced several residents with homes close to the ocean to seek higher ground inland, but no injuries have been reported yet.

“We do have some reports of buildings losing roofs in the Nome area,” said meteorologist Scott Berg at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. “Also water at the base of buildings in Nome.”

Conditions are expected to worsen as the day progresses, according to the NWS, who predict the storm to move north-northeast “creating a life-threatening situation for a large portion of the western Alaska coast” later in the day.

Particularly at risk is the Seward Peninsula near Nome, which authorities say is getting hit hard by blizzard conditions, 70 mph winds, and an eight-foot coastal storm surge.

The storm surge could produce a 7-foot rise in sea levels, which would cause heavy flooding, meteorologist Stephen Kearney in Fairbanks told the Associated Press.

Experts said that while big low-pressure systems hit Alaska often, this one is different because of the track it took and because it hasn’t been cold enough for ice to form around the shore.

“Because we don’t have shore-fast ice this time of year, that’s what’s significant,” Berg told the AP. “Just hasn’t got cold enough yet. We have open water generally until the first of December.”

For updates on the Bering Sea storm, head over to the National Weather Service’s official site.

via USA Today