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Widespread flooding and damage after the worst September storm since the 1970s hits Alaska, U.S.

seppela street in nome on september 17 2022 f

Remnants of Typhoon “Merbok” slammed into western Alaska, U.S. on September 16 and 17, 2022, bringing significant storm surge and high winds to the region. This was the worst September storm to hit Alaska since the 1970s.

  • The flooding and wind damage affected 50 communities, impacting airports, roadways, buildings and bridges.

Described by weather authorities as ‘historic’ and ‘the worst-case scenario’ – the storm caused widespread flooding, power outages, and damage to buildings, roads and other infrastructure.

Damage reports include many communities along more than 1 600 km (990 miles) of coastline, including Hooper Bay, Nome, Unalakleet, and Shaktoolik in Western Alaska.1

Water levels in Nome rose 3 to 4 m (10 – 13 feet) above normal, flooding the region as far as 100 km (62 miles) from the coast – the highest level of storm surge in more than 50 years surpassing previous record-level flooding in 2011 and 1974.

A vital 100 km (62 miles) highway connecting Nome and Council along the shore of the Bering Sea sustained major damage with large sections of the road flooded or completely destroyed.

Hooper Bay experienced some of the worst damage, with much of the community under several feet of water, according to local officials.

Mike Dunleavy, Governor of Alaska, declared a disaster on September 18 and the State of Alaska has formed an emergency operations center to respond.

The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (Alaska DOT&PF) said it received reports of significant erosion, some experiencing over 30 m (100 feet) of shoreline loss, including Shaktoolik, Nome, Newtok, Scammon Bay, and Tununak.

Luckily, their airport system – a vital line of transportation for many communities – hasn’t seen major damage.

“With so many communities affected by this event, we have confirmed that we haven’t seen major damages on our runways, although we have had personnel out clearing debris off of runway surfaces, and are hearing that access to roads to the airports have been compromised,” Alaska DOT&PF said.

“We also have airports in several communities with lighting systems out due to community-wide power outages. (Shaktoolik, Scammon Bay, and Newtok are all locations where we are assessing runway damages).”

References:

1 Historic Storm Causes Widespread Flooding and Damage Along West Alaska Coastline – High North News – September 19, 2022

2 Western Alaska Storm Response – Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities – September 2022

Featured image Seppela Street in Nome, Alaska on September 17, 2022. Credit: Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities

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