Intense storm hitting Alaska’s Aleutian Islands
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The edge of a rapidly intensifying storm began pummeling parts of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands on Friday, signaling its arrival by lashing the western tip of the island chain with hurricane-force winds.
Sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph) and gusts up to 96 mph (155 kph) were recorded Friday morning on Shemya Island, where 120 people had locked themselves indoors to wait out the storm.
The brunt of the storm — the remains of Typhoon Nuri — is expected to pass into the Bering Sea and weaken as early as Saturday, but it will still push unseasonably frigid air into much of the U.S. next week, the National Weather Service said.
Shemya Island is where the U.S. military operates Eareckson Air Station, which serves mainly as an early warning radar installation. Acting manager Don Llewellyn said no one is going outside, but people can see light poles waving.
Forecasters said waves could be as high as 50 feet (15 meters), prompting ships and fishing vessels to get out of the storm’s path or seek protected harbors.
The storm was expected to surpass the intensity of 2012′s Superstorm Sandy and has the potential to be one of the most intensive to ever hit the North Pacific, meteorologists said. But while Sandy was blamed for at least 182 deaths and $65 billion in damage on the East Coast, Nuri’s target is a sparsely populated region with just a few small communities where people are accustomed to severe weather.
Friday’s high temperature was in the mid-40s in Shemya, which is in a sub-polar region that doesn’t get the same bitter cold as Alaska’s interior. But the island 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage gets plenty of extreme weather, including 100-mph (160 kph) winds. The community averages six weather-related lockdowns a year, Llewellyn said.
“This is nothing new to us,” he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. “This one’s a little bit more intense, but it’s something that we’re prepared to deal with.”
Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro . Associated Press writers Jim Suhr in Illinois and Carson Walker in South Dakota, and AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C., also contributed to this report.