Ex-Typhoon Merbok to hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds, storm surge

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Typhoon Merbok, which formed over the northwestern Pacific during the second week of September, has transitioned to a powerful tropical wind and rainstorm. AccuWeather meteorologists warn the massive storm will hit areas of western Alaska with the force of a hurricane this weekend.

Even though Merbok will gradually lose intensity as it travels northeast across the Bering Sea and approaches the western coast of Alaska, it will still pack a tremendous punch in terms of wind, seas and precipitation.

Ex-Typhoon Merbok to hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds, storm surge

The complex system and former typhoon absorbed a non-tropical storm over the past couple of days and has rapidly intensified in terms of low pressure, exceeding the threshold for a bomb cyclone. “The drop in Merbok’s pressure before becoming non-tropical was about 0.86 inches/29 mb in 24 hours,” AccuWeather senior weather dditor Jesse Ferrell said.

This is not the normal time of year to have a huge storm in the area. NOAA said the cyclone, which had dipped to a pressure of 973 mb Friday morning, was the deepest low pressure in the Bering Sea in September since 2005.

The tropical rain and wind storm could be one of the worst ever to hit western Alaska in terms of wind, heavy seas and coastal flooding. During Thursday night, the storm produced wind gusts to hurricane force (75 mph) as temperatures surged to 70 degrees Fahrenheit on Adak Island, located near the western end of the Aleutians. The normal high on Adak Island is in the low 50s in mid-September. Monstrous seas in the region were the height of four-story buildings.

Ex-Typhoon Merbok to hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds, storm surge

The effects of the system could rival that of the 2011 Bering Sea Superstorm, according to the National Weather Service. However, Merbok could be more dangerous and damaging in that it is likely to track farther to the southeast, sprawl and affect more populated areas along Alaska’s west coast as a result. Peak gusts of 93 mph from the 2011 Superstorm were on Little Diomede Island, located on the northwestern tip of Alaska, near the dividing line between the United State and Russia.

Impacts in Nome, Alaska, are likely to be severe with hurricane-force wind gusts, periods of heavy rain and a storm surge as high as 12-18 feet along the eastern end of Hooper Bay. The worst conditions in the area are likely from Friday night to Saturday night. The storm surge alone can lead to major coastal flooding in low-lying areas. Wave action on top of the storm surge can lead to additional coastal erosion and property damage.

“Gusts frequenting 50-75 mph are likely with AccuWeather Storm Max & trade wind gusts to near 100 mph along the upper west coast of Alaska and in portions of the Aleutian Islands into this weekend,” AccuWeather lead storm warning meteorologist Mike Youman said. At this force, trees may topple, large branches may break and damage to roofs and poorly constructed buildings is likely, as are substantial power outages.

Ex-Typhoon Merbok to hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds, storm surge

The enraged state of the sea will make for life-threatening conditions for fishing operations. Small craft should remain in port under these conditions, experts advise.

Rounds of heavy rain in the western portion of Alaska can lead to flash flooding and debris flows, especially, but not limited to, recent wildfire burn scar areas.

Most of the impacts from Merbok will be confined to the western and northern parts of Alaska. Some showers may reach Fairbanks this weekend, and some rain from a secondary spin-off storm is likely to fall on Anchorage from Sunday night to Monday. But these impacts will be minimal, forecasters say.

As the storm continues to transition to more of a non-tropical system, heavy snow will be unloaded over Alaska’s interior.

Ex-Typhoon Merbok to hit Alaska with hurricane-force winds, storm surge

This image, captured on Thursday, shows the former Typhoon Merbok over the Bering Sea (left of center). Alaska is visible (right of center) as well. Image courtesy of Joint Polar Satellite System/NOAA

“From 1-2 feet of snow may fall over the higher terrain of the Brooks Range located over northern Alaska this weekend,” AccuWeather senior meteorologist Bob Smerbeck said. “Locally heavy snow is also likely to fall later this weekend to early next week over the Alaska Range, which arches well to the west, north and east of the Anchorage area.”

Merbok will gradually unwind later this weekend into next week as it drifts across the Arctic Circle.

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