Bering Sea Storm Still Batters Alaska; Weather Moves Slowly

PHOTO: Nome kids plays in sea foam near the Nome harbor, Nov. 8, 2011 as the big Bering Sea storm starts kicking up in Nome, Alaska.
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The great Bering Sea storm of 2011 has been intense, large -- and long-lasting. Today the National Weather Service said western Alaska still needed to batten down the hatches.

"The strong storm which has been battering western Alaska moved north of the Chukotsk Peninsula late Wednesday and is only slowly weakening," the weather service said in a special warning. "The hard-hitting weather with this storm is far from over as sea levels rose early Wednesday evening over Norton Sound, the Bering Strait and the southern Chukchi Sea."

Mimi Farley, the emergency service administrator in Nome, the largest town on the coast, said, "The mighty Bering Sea storm is on day three with winds slowly settling down."

The weather service reported maximum wind gusts of 89 mph in Wales, Alaska; 81 mph at Cape Lisburne and 78 mph at Point Hope.

If these names are unfamiliar, that's because the western coast of Alaska is one of the most remote and sparsely populated parts of the United States. Nome has a population of fewer than 3,600 people. The weather there is often violent, and the people who tough it out in Savoonga or Gambell don't complain much. The temperatures this morning, after all, were only in the upper 20s.

Jeremy Zidek of the state's emergency management agency said there had been no reports of injuries from the storm, and there were only scattered reports of power outages.

"People said they were worried," said Winton Weyapuk, president of the Wales Village Corp. "When the wind gusted here, it was pretty loud inside their homes."

Still, even for western Alaska, this storm was unusually fierce. Meteorologists said there had not been one comparable since 1974.

"Storms of this magnitude are rarely felt," Bob Fisher of the National Weather Service said. "We get a lot of storms. Western Alaska is really one of the stormiest places on earth. But this one is just a lot stronger."

Forecasters said it was both strong and unusually large, stretching for more than 1,000 miles, as cold air from Siberia collided with relatively warm air from the Pacific Ocean.

In Kivalina, there is now a 14-foot seawall to protect against coastal erosion, because there is less sea ice than there used to be to buffer against frequent storms on the Bering Sea. Marilyn Swan, the city clerk, made the five-minute walk to work, and by the time she arrived, she said, she was covered with clumps of snow.

"I've never seen it that bad before," she said. "We've had storms, but this is pretty strong."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 
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