‘Never this severe’: Alaska residents flee from flooding as powerful storm slams state

A powerful storm moving north through the Bering Strait on Saturday caused widespread flooding in several western Alaskan coastal communities, blacking out power and sending people fleeing to higher ground. .

The force of the water moved some houses from their foundations, and one house in Nome drifted down the river until it was swept into a bridge.

The storm is what remains of Hurricane Merbok, a storm that is also affecting weather patterns as far as California, where strong winds and a rare late-summer rainstorm are expected.

In Alaska, there have been no reports of injuries or deaths from the storm, said Jeremy Zidek, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Alaska. Officials have warned communities that some places could experience their worst flooding in 50 years and that water could take up to 14 hours to recede.

Governor Mike Dunleavy on Saturday issued a disaster declaration for affected communities.

Among those hardest hit is Golovin, where most of the village’s 170 residents are either sheltering at schools or in three hillside buildings. Winds in the area are at more than 95 kilometers per hour and water levels are 3.35 meters above the normal high tide and are expected to increase by 61 centimeters on Saturday before rising.

“Most of the lower part of the community is flooded with structures and buildings,” said Ed Plumb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

Clarabelle Lewis, the local tribal government facility manager, was among those seeking refuge on the hill overlooking Golovin. She and others weathered the storm in the tribal office after protecting their home items from the wind and helping their neighbors do the same.

“The winds are howling; it’s very noisy,” she said.

Lewis had never experienced a storm like this in the 20 years she lived in Golovin.

“We’ve had floods in the past a few times, but it’s never been this severe,” she said. “We’ve never had houses removed from their foundations.”

There are also reports of flooding in Hooper Bay, St. Michael’s, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, where the waves lashed the shore in front of the community, Plumb said.

People walk through floodwaters just half a block from the Bering Sea in Nome on Saturday. (Peggy Fagerstrom / The Associated Press)

He said the storm will track through the Bering Strait on Saturday and then enter the Chukchi Sea.

“And then it’s going to look like a park and wane just west of Point Hope,” he said of the community on Alaska’s northwest coast.

He said there would be high water in the vicinity of the northern Bering Sea through Saturday night before beginning to subside through Sunday. The water level rise further north, in the Chukchi Sea and Kotzebue Sound areas, will last until Sunday.

Water from the Bering Sea, pushed by high winds, flooded the backyard of a house in Nome on Saturday. (Peggy Fagerstrom / The Associated Press)

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