Flood warnings in effect for Alaska’s Bering Sea coastline

Waters were expected to reach their highest levels Monday night and into Tuesday.

A Bering Sea storm with strong winds was expected to cause minor flooding along the Western Alaska coast from Scammon Bay north to Golovin.

The National Weather Service issued a series of flood warnings Monday morning covering coastal zones of Western Alaska. The warning also covers the Yukon River delta.

"We've got gale-force winds across much of the Bering Sea," said meteorologist Jim Brader. These winds push seawater into the coast.

"Think about it like if you were blowing across a pan of water," he said. "If you blow strong, you can kind of make the water push up on the other end."

Flooding was expected to start around noon Monday around Scammon Bay and the Southwest Alaska coast, then move north, the weather service said. For the Norton Sound area including Unalakleet, Stebbins and Koyuk, the warning will take effect starting at 6 p.m. Monday and extend until midnight Tuesday. The warning for Golovin is in effect from 6 p.m. Monday to 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The storm surge and big waves will push water levels 3 to 6 feet above normal tides. Water levels are expected to be at their highest Monday night and into Tuesday.

Low-lying areas along the coast and near the mouth of the Yukon may flood, the weather service said. But buildings, roads and runways aren't expected to be damaged in most communities, Brader said.

"What we are expecting right now is minor flooding," he said. "In Stebbins, four feet can push water up into the town. That could flood around some buildings there." Unalakleet also might see water in low-lying parts of town.

In Southwest Alaska, villages subject to flooding from the storm surge include Emmonak, Alakanuk, Kotlik, Nunam Iqua, Scammon Bay, Marshall, St. Marys, Mountain Village, Pilot Station and Pitkas Point.

Skiffs still in the water may be swamped, said Herman Hootch, the outgoing mayor of Emmonak.

"We always have boats sink. It never fails," he said. "That high water is really treacherous."

Fragile, exposed shoreland may crumble and wash away, Brader said. Shishmaref and Kivalina especially are susceptible to erosion.

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