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Buckle up: Fall storm set to spray Alaska Wednesday

Ben Anderson
Courtesy Thomas Higgins

While portions of Alaska saw rain and wind on Tuesday, the National Weather Service reports that Mother Nature may just be warming up. A "fire hose" of moisture is set to spray Southcentral and the southern Interior regions of the state, while high wind warnings are in --especially in the Prince William Sound region, which has already been doused with rain the last few days.

As of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the NWS had issued a floodwatch for the Anchorage area. The watch starts at around 4 a.m. Wednesday and runs through Thursday afternoon.

Anchorage is expected to see gusts of up to 60 mph in parts of the lower Hillside and Eagle River. Along Turnagain Arm, gusts of up to 110 mph can be expected, the NWS said.

Shaun Baines, a NWS meteorologist, said this storm will probably be similar to the one this past weekend, which saw heavy rains deluge Southcentral but less wind damage than the Sept. 5 storm that knocked out thousands of Anchorage residents' power for days.

"Looks like everything is coming closer together, so our timing ... is looking pretty good right now. We’re pretty confident that the peak of this wind event will be late tonight into tomorrow," Baines said.

In the Interior, areas west and south of Fairbanks can expect wind gusts between 40 and 60 mph, and a high wind warning is in effect for those regions. Another recent wind event knocked out power to several communities along the Alaska Highway.

Then, the rain: Recent heavy rains saw precipitation throughout Southcentral Alaska, particularly in the Prince William Sound region. The communities of Cordova and Valdez began to worry as the rain kept falling, but there was no major flooding. That could change with this coming event, according to Weather Service hydrologist Ben Balk.

Balk said Tuesday that over the weekend several rivers and lakes in the Prince William Sound region reached levels approaching records from a 2006 flooding event. Balk said that continued heavy rain could cause "moderate to major" issues in those areas.

And that heavy rain appears to be on its way. Balk said that there are "almost three days of rain projected, anywhere from 4-7 inches, with higher amounts over the Prince William Sound region, greater than 10 inches in some regions."

So keep an eye on the rivers and lakes, and tie down those tarps, Alaska. All this fall weather will have you begging for good old-fashioned snow in no time.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com. Katie Medred contributed to this report.