The storm hitting western Alaska is causing widespread flooding

The storm hitting western Alaska is causing widespread flooding

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A powerful storm traveling north through the Bering Strait on Saturday caused widespread flooding in several coastal communities in western Alaska, knocking out power and sending residents fleeing for higher ground.

The force of the water blew some houses off their foundations and a house in Nome floated down a river until it was caught on a bridge.

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

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

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

Among the hardest hit was Golovin, where most of the village’s 170 or so residents were either sheltering in the school or in three hillside buildings. Winds in the area were gusting over 60 mph (95 km/h) and the water level was 11 feet (3.35 meters) above the normal high tide line and was expected to rise another 2 feet (61 centimeters) by Saturday. from the climax.

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

Clarabelle Lewis, the director of facilities for the tribal government, the Chinik Eskimo community, was among those who sought shelter on the hill overlooking Golovin. She and others were riding out the storm at the tribal office after securing items in their homes from the winds and helping their neighbors do the same.

“The winds were howling. it was noisy,” he said.

Lewis has never experienced a storm like this in her 20 years living in Golovin.

“We’ve had floods in the past a few times, but never this bad,” he said. “We had never moved houses off their foundations.”

There were also reports of flooding in Hooper Bay, St. Michael’s, Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, where waves broke over the rock in front of the community, Plumb said.

He said the storm will cross the Bering Strait on Saturday and then head into the Chukchi Sea.

“And then it will park and weaken just west of Point Hope,” he said of the community on Alaska’s northwest coast.

He said there would be high water in the northern Bering Sea region until Saturday night before receding by Sunday. Rising water levels further north in the Chukchi Sea and Kotzebue Sound areas will continue through Sunday.

In Northern California, wind gusts of up to 40 mph (64 km/h) were forecast Saturday night and into Sunday morning along coastal areas from Sonoma County to Santa Cruz and higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada, he said. the National Weather Service.

Winds of that strength can knock down branches and drought-stricken trees and cause power outages, said weather service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun.

Storms were expected to begin Sunday morning and drop up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain in coastal areas of Sonoma County and less as the rain moves south toward the San Francisco area and the Santa Cruz Mountains, he said. Walbrun.

“It’s a pretty significant amount of rain for this early in the season,” he said, adding that storms are forecast to last at times at least through Monday and will make the commute to work wet with slick roads.

In the Sierra Nevada foothills northeast of the state capital Sacramento, fire crews have battled the state’s largest wildfire so far this year. While rain was needed, the winds caused concern for crews battling the Mosquito Fire, which was 21 percent contained as of Saturday morning.

“Winds will certainly cause erratic fire behavior” that could spark new hot spots, Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said, but the rains will bring welcome moisture. “The rain is not going to put out the fire, but it will help.”

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Gecker reported from San Francisco.

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