LOOK: Alaska Experiences Worst Coastal Flooding in Decades Amid Massive Storm

by Suzanne Halliburton

Blame the remnants of Typhoon Merbok for giving parts of Alaska its worst flooding in a half century. But the water had started to recede by Sunday.

The storm impacted more than 1,000 miles of Alaskan coast line. Jeremy Zidek, the spokesman for the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the flooding effected some of the most remote areas of the United States.

“It’s a very large area and the damages across that area really vary quite a bit,” Zidek told the Washington Post. “Access to these areas is very difficult.”

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities posted several photos of some of the flooding. The governor gave a disaster declaration for parts of the state.

On Saturday, the National Weather Service in Fairbanks shared a graphic showing how immense the storm was. Basically, if placed over the lower 48, it would dominate from the Canadian border south down to Texas and west to California. The tweet said: “As the remnants of Typhoon Merbok impacts into Alaska’s West Coast, it’s important to reference the size of this storm. There are currently Coastal Flood and High Wind Warnings in effect for the West Coast and Western Arctic Coast as the storm tracks up the Bering Strait.”

Flooding Impacted Western Sections of Alaska

The flooding was so powerful in parts of Alaska that the water was knocking homes off their foundations. One remote airport reported that floodwaters covered half of a runaway. There are very few roads in this part of the state.

Alaska Sen Lisa Murkowski tweeted: “Western Alaska is facing one of the worst storms in recent history. My team and I are in consistent communication with local, state, and federal officials and stand ready to do what I can at the federal level to support all those who are being impacted.” 

The tide gauge in Nome indicated that water levels were higher than nine feet above normal levels. That was more than storms in 2004 and 2011. Flood waters rushed over six of the city’s streets. That included Front Street, which serves as the finish line for the annual Iditarod race.

Waves north of the Aleutian Islands peaked at 50 feet on Friday. As the remnants came onshore, some towns registered wind gusts close to hurricane strength. The winds for a minimal cat 1 hurricane start at 74 mph.

The storm began weakening Sunday as it moved north into the Chukchi Sea off the state’s northwest coast.

Rick Thoman is a climate specialist for the International Artic Research Center at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He told the Associated Press: “One of the big features of this storm was the wide swath of significant damage.

“So, did it live up to the hype? I would say absolutely,” Thoman added.