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Arctic “hurricane” slams Alaska

The facts (converted to metric by — Winds: Up to 160km/h.  Power: Equivalent to Cat 2 hurricane.  Ice: Accumulating at 40cms an hour.  Waves:  Up to 12metres in the Bering Sea.  Temperatures:  As low as -26C.

A winter storm of hurricane strength was slamming Alaska early Wednesday with winds of up to 160km/h, high seas and blizzard conditions.

The National Weather Service called the storm moving into the state off the Bering Sea “a powerful and extremely dangerous storm of record or near-record magnitude.”

[Updated at 1:10 p.m. ET] Frigid winds like those now ripping across the Bering Sea into Alaska can cause more damage than warm winds, meteorologists tell the Christian Science Monitor.

“Cold air impacts the water more and can push the momentum of the wind into the water more,” meteorologist Jim Brader of the National Weather Service’s Fairbanks office told the Monitor.

Brader also said the winds moving in the same direction over a distance of about a thousand miles, something that means bigger waves and more water pushed ashore, according to the Monitor report.

That means people on low-lying islands and coastal areas may face big trouble, according to the report.

In fact, the village of Point Hope points out on its website how it had to move parts of the village to a new site during the 1970s because of the effects of storm surge and erosion.

[Updated at 12:36 p.m. ET] The wind chill at Red Dog Dock south of Kivalina, Alaska, was -26 degrees C at 8 a.m. local time, according to measurements from the NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center. Winds were gusting to 112km/h and the temperature was -11 degrees C. The rate of ice accertion, the process of ice building up on solid objects, was more than 40cms an hour, according to the NDBC data.

[Updated at 12:16 p.m. ET] KNOM radio in Nome, Alaska, reports via Twitter that a two-foot diameter log, ice and rocks the size of fists are being blown along Front Street in the town.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m. ET] Major coastal flooding and severe beach erosion is expected along the northern and eastern shores of Norton Sound, the National Weather Service reports. Sea levels are forecast to rise 2 to 3 metres and strong winds may push ice in Norton Bay onshore through Wednesday night, forecasters say.

[Updated at 10:04 a.m. ET] A Twitter user says their mother’s house in Kotzebue, Alaska, is shaking so hard in the wind that the woman fell down.

[Updated at 9:53 a.m. ET] The storm is pushing water in to Norton Sound and flooding is anticipated in communities along Alaska’s western coast, National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Berg, told CNN Wednesday morning.

Water has moved up to the base of some buildings in Nome and is expected to continue to rise, Berg said. The weather service also has reports of roofs being torn off buildings by high winds in Nome, he said.

The highest gust reported in the storm so far is 143km/h in Wales, Alaska, Berg said.

The weather service has not reported any significant snow accumulation so far, but it has been snowing continuously in some areas since Tuesday, he said.

“When the snow is flying sideways, it’s kinda hard to go out and see how much is falling,” Berg said.

The center of the storm is pushing northward and will turn to the north-northwest later in the day, he said. Communities including Kivalina and Point Hope will see worsening conditions, according to Berg.

[Updated at 9:34 a.m. ET] The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center reports the storm is generating waves as high as 12 metres in the Bering Sea.

[Posted at 6:32 a.m. ET] Early Wednesday, Twitter reports said wind speeds in Nome in northwestern Alaska had reached 160km/h. That would be the equivalent of a category 2 hurricane if it occurred in the tropics. Twitter postings reported structural damage in Nome, including the roof blown off a building. Landline phones were down, according to a Twitter post.

“These things get named hurricanes down south and get a category. It’s that magnitude,” said Jeff Osiensky, regional warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Anchorage Daily News. The storm’s scope was also hurricane-like, he said, covering 1200 to 1,600 kms in breadth.

Chip Leeper, incident commander with the Nome government, told CNN that people in low-lying areas and on along the town’s sea wall had been advised to seek shelter elsewhere.

Other coastal and island villages were preparing evacuations if surf became too high.

Inland, the storm was expected to produce blizzard or near-blizzard conditions across western Alaska, the weather service said.

– CNN, measurements converted to metric by


Guest on 9/11/2011 11:52pm


According to the main article that you have quoted, It is not snow that is accumulating at 40cm/hr, but ice accretion is happening at 40cm/hr.

Here is a link that explains how ice accretion can happen:

Given that the article makes no mention of tremendous snow-fall or tremendous freezing rain, and the air temperature is quoted at -11deg (-26deg is the wind chill) I would guess that this rate of ice accretion is mostly happening from sea spray from huge waves breaking on shore in sub-freezing air temperatures, hitting buildings and freezing to ice on contact.

According to wikianswers (, the world record for snowfall is 9 inches (approx 23 cm), and even that report isn’t officially verified. But there are no ‘official’ records of one hour snowfall on the net, and the 24hr record is 76 inches (approx 190cm, or less than 10cm per hour on average)

WW Forecast Team on 9/11/2011 11:53pm

Hi there, you’re quite correct – have changed "snow" to "ice".


– WW

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