STORM OF THE CENTURY: Alaska declares 'state of disaster' as Typhoon Merbok bears down on state
JUNEAU, ALASKA: One of the most vicious typhoons in at least a decade struck Alaska’s western coast on Friday, September 16 with a flood strong enough to uproot a whole building and hurricane-force winds. The typhoon has already forced several residents to vacate their homes. The situation is expected to get worse as the National Weather Service warned of 'angry' seas in Alaska.
The National Weather Service on Saturday, September 17, said that the Typhoon "has continued to produce a potentially historic and long-duration storm surge, and damaging high winds across southwestern and western Alaska." Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy has since declared a state of disaster for the impacted communities as the heavy rains lashed the coast, filling roadways with water and debris.
"We're going to move as quickly as we can to provide relief, to provide recovery, and to provide the essentials that people need," Governor Dunleavy said. "We don't have a lot of time." In a Saturday briefing, the governor said the authorities have started assessing the impact of the storm on roads, oil storage, and possibly sea walls. The governor also mentioned that no deaths or injuries have been reported so far. According to Bryan Fisher, director of the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, approximately 450 residents of the town of Anchorage have vacated their houses and are now seeking shelter in local schools.
The National Weather Service stated that the Merbork Typhoon that formed over Japan on Saturday is expected to bring heavy rainfall and high winds until Sunday morning. The service also mentioned that it takes the sun three hours to set over the massive storm system. “Impacts may exceed the 2011 Bering Sea Superstorm, and some locations may experience their worst coastal flooding in nearly 50 years,” it said in a tweet Thursday. “Peak water levels will persist for 10 to 14 hours before the water recedes.”
Just now, I verbally declared a disaster for communities impacted by the west cost storm. SEOC has received no reports of injuries at this time. We will continue to monitor the storm and update Alaskans as much as possible.— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) September 17, 2022
To ease your minds Alaska, yes, we are watching another typhoon near Japan. While this storm is expected to curve north towards the southern Bering Sea, it will weaken significantly & not be anything out of the ordinary. It is not forecast to move into the Northern Bering. https://t.co/tO2chu8RuY— NWS Alaska Region (@NWSAlaska) September 18, 2022
In a video briefing on the storm Saturday, National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Plumb said the front surpassed those expectations, at least when it came to storm surge, which measured 6 to 8 feet above median high tide Saturday at Point Hope in the Chukchi Sea and 10 to 12 feet along the Bering Sea coastline.
Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, issued a similar statement while sharing his concerns over the low coastal areas of the state. "We really have to take a wait-and-see approach before we deploy the limited resources that we have," Zidek told the New York Times. "Alaska is a different animal."
Water levels SE of Kivalina are about 3.5 ft above the normal tide now. Water continues surging north overnight. We anticipate peak water levels (above the high tide line) of 3-5ft at Deering, 4-6ft at Kotzebue, and 5-7ft at Shishmaref and Kivalina. These are concerning numbers. pic.twitter.com/dfQamiOiFO— NWS Alaska Region (@NWSAlaska) September 18, 2022
Water levels (in red) are dropping at both Nome and Unalakleet. They will keep trending down, but it will be slower than we want. pic.twitter.com/QYVfb9NPW7— NWS Alaska Region (@NWSAlaska) September 18, 2022
The storm is expected to subside by Monday, with parts of Fairbanks and Anchorage forecasted to see rain into Sunday night. A weather forecast report suggested that high winds and heavy rainfall are expected for next week on mainland Alaska. Calm on the mainland was possible by the end of the week, forecasters said.