…still packed quite the punch.
The western coast of Alaska was pummeled over the weekend by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok. Sustained winds over 50 mph, with gusts over 90; 50 foot waves and a storm surge 15 feet above high tide left many evacuating to higher ground.
It was the worst storm our Western Coast has experienced in 50 years, and it has been 70 years since a storm this fierce hit in September.
To its credit, The National Weather Service was remarkably accurate in its forecast of the storm. Several days out, the NWS was getting out the word that this was going to be a devastating flooding event. All the ingredients came together perfectly to create some “very angry seas”.
High winds have taken roofs off of buildings, one building in Nome suffered from a fire, and the storm surge has evicted hundreds. Many took shelter in schools, or to higher ground.
My favorite village of Newtok has been flooded, and many have taken to the school for shelter. The riverbank at Newtok has eroded between 10-15 feet overnight. Newtok is one of several villages in Alaska in dire need of relocation due to erosion and sinking ground.
Water levels in many flooded villages are not expected to drop until Monday, and in some cases Tuesday. The timing of the storm is particularly difficult, with winter on the horizon. The village of Shaktoolik lost its sea berm to the storm, which leaves it vulnerable to additional winter storms. The village of Chevak lost much of its fishing fleet when boats sank or were damaged in the storm.
We really have two seasons in Alaska: Winter, and Preparing for Winter. Preparing for winter in Western Alaska is now going to be a huge challenge.
After a two year hiatus, the citizen scientist event, Cook Inlet Belugas Count, is back on for 2022. The event, hosted by NOAA, will take place Saturday, September 17.
Canaries of the Sea: Belugas are quite vocal: They chirp, squeak, click and whistle. Alaska has five populations of the white whale, and the Cook Inlet population is the only one listed as endangered. At last count, the population was thought to be around 279 whales.
Beluga whales, like humpbacks, can be identified as individuals by their natural markings. Many are known by their numbers, and a few, like the bears of Katmai, have nicknames.
Members of the public are invited to join NOAA at stations around Cook Inlet to identify and count beluga whales. The event is free and open to everyone, and families are encouraged to join the beluga celebration. Details can be found on the Beluga Count facebook page.
If you think we’re an odd bunch up here in the summer, just wait for the winter months.
Officially, Fairbanks hit 32F for the first time this season on Sunday morning. That means we had a string of 114 freeze-free days.
Unofficially, I have already seen a couple of 32 degree mornings at the cabin, but Sunday was the first hard freeze of the season. The temp when I finally ventured outside was 28F, but judging from the frost on leaves and windshields, I would guess it had dropped a couple of degrees cooler.
A new season has begun in Interior Alaska.
Chunk, also known as Bear 32, has made his appearance at Brooks Falls. As usual, he is one big bear.
Fat Bear Week, the annual bruin celebration from Katmai National Park, starts this year on October 5.
The Lower 48 remains caught up in the heat of summer, but autumn has taken hold in Alaska. The seasonal graphic that AlaskaWx puts together is a review that I always enjoy, so I’m sharing it here.
Weather-wise, Alaska was all over the map this past summer. Fairbanks had one of our driest summers on record, while Anchorage had a top three driest June, only to then see a top three wettest August.
Toolik Lake had snow in July, while Denali Park saw the white stuff accumulate in August.
The Southeast had an early heatwave, and Cold Bay saw a record early first freeze.
Overall, Alaska has seen 3.11 million acres burn to wildfire, which is the seventh largest burn season since 1950.