|Record breaking storm pounds the western coast of Alaska on Wednesday with hurricane-force winds [AFP]|
A major storm blasted the rural western coastline of Alaska on Wednesday, tearing roofs off buildings and causing some flash flooding. The storm was around 1000km across and packed hurricane force winds gusting over 110 kph leading to widespread blizzards.
Some of the native villages along the coastline did suffer flooding and much of the west coast felt some impact from the storm. One of the hardest hit areas was Nome, a former gold rush boomtown, famous as the end of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and the surrounding villages. The storm tossed debris onto the roads, making driving very hazardous. The heavy seas made conditions even worse. There was severe coastal flooding. Officials reported that large rocks and logs were also onto the roadways by the huge waves.
Dozens of people across the lowest-lying areas were ordered to leave their homes and move into schools and public buildings for a time. Large-scale evacuations beyond the immediate region were not considered feasible because the violent weather made it too dangerous for air travel.
Powerful storms of this magnitude are by no means unusual in the Bering Sea and North Pacific at this time of year. However, this storm is noteworthy because of its northward track. That and the lack of sea ice currently in the region enhanced the destructive capability of the storm
The last time we had a storm anything like this size and orientation, was in 1974. However, back then, much more of the sea surface frozen allowing it to act as a buffer to the storm as it approached landfall. Arctic sea ice has now reached the second-lowest coverage since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder Colorado.