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Southcentral Alaska weather watches upgraded to warnings as low pressure deepens

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Batten down the hatches, everyone. On Saturday morning, the National Weather Service (NWS) increased the seriousness of its weather outlook for Alaska's Southcentral region. The status now includes a hazardous condition warning for Southcentral Alaska and a flood watch for Western Prince William Sound. Mariners are also in for a wild weekend. There's a storm or gale warning for several coastal areas and hurricane force winds and high seas forecast in the open waters of the northern Gulf of Alaska from Cape Suckling to Gore Point.

According to NOAA, a "powerful late summer storm" sweeping from the Bering Sea is likely to hit the Southcentral region starting Saturday evening and continuing into Sunday. The impact is not expected to be as significant as the most recent high windstorm that knocked out power to tens of thousands of Anchorage residents last week, but may still be dangerous or cause inconvenience.

Officials have issued a "high wind warning" for Anchorage and nearby communities to the south, as well as the entire Prince William Sound. It will be in effect from 10 p.m. Saturday to 4 p.m. Sunday. East Winds through Portage Valley and along Turnagain Arm are expected to blow between 35 to 55 MPH, with gusts of 70 to 85 MPH. Wind is expected to "peak during the day on Sunday as a weather front moves through the region." By Sunday afternoon, however, the weather will "begin diminishing slowly."

Along with the high wind warning comes a flood watch for the Western half of Prince William Sound. A "flood watch means there is potential for flooding." The NWS says that storm models indicate the storm may dump 5 to 7 inches of rain on streams and rivers draining into the Sound and in the Seward area. The flood watch will be in effect beginning Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon.

The National Weather Service urges the public to secure any loose equipment or items that will be left out during the storm, and to closely monitor the situation as it begins to develop.