Typhoon leaves behind extensive flooding in Western Alaska


September 21, 2022 | View PDF

The remnants of a massive Pacific typhoon that battered a thousand-mile stretch of Western Alaska dissipated Sunday morning, with floodwaters dropping and communities assessing damage from one of the worst storms on record.

The storm left a trail of wreckage across coastal Alaska, with flooding, telecommunications outages and damage to buildings and infrastructure including roads, docks, seawalls and village runways.

As of Monday morning, there were no reports of deaths, serious injuries or people missing, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kaitlyn Lardeo.

No additional communities reported damage on Monday, Lardeo said, and the storm was continuing to weaken. The weather system is what’s left of what was Typhoon Merbok, which formed farther east in the Pacific Ocean than where such storms typically appear.

Parts of Kotzebue were flooded late Saturday and into Sunday morning, with residents of some low-lying parts of town sheltering elsewhere overnight. As of Sunday afternoon, there were no reports of evacuations in Kivalina and Deering, and “no other communities in the Northwest Arctic Borough have reported any major impacts,” said Tessa Baldwin, Director of Public Safety at the Northwest Arctic Borough Department of Public Safety.

Farther south, water levels dropped throughout Sunday in communities at the mouths of the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, Norton Sound and the Seward Peninsula.

According to Gov. Mike Dunleavy five communities are known to be “severely damaged”: Hooper Bay, Scammon Bay, Nome, Newtok and Golovin.

Even communities that did not get the worst of the impacts are contending with major problems in the days ahead. Unalakleet, Elim, Hooper Bay and Golovin are facing water issues. Hundreds of people sheltered at the school in Hooper Bay over the weekend, including residents of nearby Kotlik, according to public radio station KYUK. Most of the fishing boats in Chevak are gone, according to reporting by KYUK and Alaska Public Media.

“There’s a lot of impacts all across the region. We understand that there’s damage to residences, that there’s damage to infrastructure in many communities and the recovery process is going to be widespread,” said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

One of the issues facing state emergency responders is that telecommunication coverage in some communities was inconsistent throughout Sunday, dropping out because of impacts to infrastructure or loss of local power sources.


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