Alaska handles brunt of Bering Sea megastorm

The Anchorage Daily NewsNovember 10, 2011 

A giant Bering Sea storm with hurricane-force winds roared up the western Alaska coastline Wednesday, sending waves over storm barriers, knocking out electricity, flooding parts of some villages and leading to evacuations. But as of Wednesday evening, officials had heard no reports of injuries nor massive damage.

There were reports of buildings damaged, roads under water and major beach erosion, and authorities emphasized Wednesday night that the worst hadn't necessarily passed, with water still rising in some communities and warnings still in effect through this morning.

In Nome, the largest city in the path of the storm, peak water levels arrived at about 6 p.m. and began a slow decline, the National Weather Service said.

"Waves are coming over the east end of town there over the road, with small debris," said Stephen Kearney, a meteorologist for the Weather Service. The seas rose about 10 feet above normal levels, with water spilling to the door of the mini convention center and flooding a street near the small boat harbor, he said.

While videos of the storm showed angry waves pounding the edge of the city, the Weather Service had received no other initial reports of damage from the evening flooding.

"Nome is A-OK. They've closed their shelter down," said Bryan Fisher, incident commander with the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, at about 8:30 p.m. "They're closing their emergency operations center down for the evening." But storm waters were still rising elsewhere along the northern coast Wednesday night as families in village after village left their homes and took refuge in local schools, prepared for the worst.

Flooding in the Kotzebue Sound village of Deering forced evacuation of about 100 people to the school, Fisher said. That's nearly everyone in the village, according to state population estimates.

Police in Point Hope reported flooding in that northwest Alaska village, with water within 10 feet of the airport, along with a power outage and widespread evacuation to the school, Kearney said.

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