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Alaska News

Weakening Bering Sea megastorm still prompting wind, snow warnings

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 14, 2015

A storm headed north through the Bering Sea was weakening Monday, but meteorologists said it was still strong enough to produce weather warnings across Western Alaska.

Blizzard warnings remained in effect for the Yukon Delta until 6 p.m. Monday, and until 6 p.m. Tuesday on St. Lawrence Island as well as the coast of the Bering Strait. Those regions can expect 1 to 6 inches of snow, as well as winds from 30 to 45 mph and gusts up to 60 mph.

A winter weather advisory was also in place for the northern and interior Seward Peninsula, calling for an inch of blowing snow by 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Anchorage-based National Weather Service meteorologist Luis Ingram said the storm was still moving north Monday morning, although with reduced force from its peak strength near midday Sunday.

"Looking at the latest satellite, it looks like the low is about halfway between St. Matthew and St. Lawrence Island," Ingram said. "It does look like the storm has been weakening."

There weren't any immediate reports of damage from the storm Monday morning, after forecasters urged coastal residents in affected areas to bring ashore gear that might get crushed by sea ice driven onto land.

"There was, I believe, a call into Adak (and) other western Aleutians communities -- they were not reporting any damage," Ingram said. "This storm is moving northward to the Yukon and Kuskokwim river deltas, so there might be something there later today."

At sea, much of the Aleutians, as well as waters west of Bethel and Nome, remained under storm and gale warnings for wind gusts up to 45 knots. The Yukon Delta is under a high surf advisory until 3 p.m. Tuesday, with the Kuskokwim Delta and shores of Bristol Bay under coastal flood advisories until 8 p.m. Monday.

The U.S. Coast Guard placed an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Air Station Kodiak aboard the cutter Mellon, on standby for potential rescues in the Bering Sea during the storm.

Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Eggert said Monday morning that no vessels in distress were reported over the weekend. An HC-130 search plane was scrambled early Monday in response to an activated emergency position-indicating radio beacon roughly 150 miles southwest of Adak.

"A C-130 flew out to take a look, to investigate where the EPIRB was going off," Eggert said. "They didn't find any sign of distress, an oil sheen or debris -- there's no sign of anyone in trouble where the EPIRB went off."

Ingram said he couldn't substantiate claims by Outside media that this weekend's storm was the worst recorded in the Bering Sea and stronger than the remnants of 2014's Typhoon Nuri, noting that storms can be assessed in several ways -- and that storms may have stronger points that aren't recorded as they pass over the remote expanses of the Bering.

Ingram did say that the geographic reach of the recent storm was remarkable, at one point simultaneously encompassing most of the Aleutian Islands as well as the Pribilof Islands.

"Different storms come in different shapes and sizes," Ingram said. "In terms of just the amount of coverage, we did have a wide area that was being affected at once."

As of Monday morning, forecasters were expecting the storm to begin its final collapse within 48 hours.

"It should be entering the Bering Strait sometime early Wednesday morning," Ingram said. "It looks like the energy dissipates by Wednesday night."

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