After a massive storm brought storm surge and flooding across hundreds of miles of Western Alaska coastline, officials with the National Weather Service say they expect the worst of the wind has passed. 

The storm is the remnants of what was Typhoon Merbok.

“Merbok was a rare and historic storm for the Bering Sea and Western Alaska,” said NWS meteorologist Virginia Rux. “Many of the coastal communities are still recovering, and we are not anticipating any storm like what we just experienced anytime soon.”

NWS meteorologist Jonathan Chriest says winds from the storm have largely peaked, with areas near the Chukchi Sea and Kotzebue Sound peaking this afternoon. 

“Deering, we’re looking for the water to peak with the high tide early this afternoon.” Christ said. “That’s the only location where we believe water hasn’t peaked yet.”

He says Deering water levels should be below the high tide line by Monday morning. Kotzebue water levels peaked early Sunday with water levels expected to stay above high tide into Tuesday afternoon. As for Shishmaref, water levels are trending downward and are expected to be normal by Monday afternoon. 

Water levels rose across Western Alaska, including in Kotzebue, due to a heavy storm that was a remnant of Typhoon Merbok. (Jimmy Evak)

Moving further north to Cape Lisburne, water levels are expected to recede starting tonight all the way into Tuesday afternoon. Chriest says the wind system is currently positioned west of Point Hope, and it’s expected to stay there for a few days. 

“The good news with this system staying in place longer is that we’re no longer expecting any widespread impacts, or really any impacts in regards to coastal flooding from Point Lay to Wainwright up to Utqiagvik.”

Areas near Nome and the Norton Sound moving south to the Lower Yukon River felt the brunt of the weekend storm, with heavy flooding and hundreds of people sheltering in schools. Christ says areas near Golovin and further south to Nome should see water below high tide by Monday afternoon. He says many communities in the Lower Yukon region of the state have returned to normal coastal  water levels. 

“Hooper Bay has actually already dropped back to water levels below the normal high tide line, so we believe. We know that the impacts are going to continue with this though, and that this region, the Norton Sound and Northern Bering Sea region, was hit really hard.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration Saturday morning for affected communities. So far, the state said it had received no reports of injuries or deaths related to the storm. 

Dunleavy is expected to hold another press conference Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. He gave an initial update to the press last night

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Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage
2022-09-18 20:00:21
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