Historic Bering Sea Storm
by Kelly Smith, Meteorologist
November 09, 2011 11:51 AM
Here in the Sioux Empire, we missed our first good chance for snow this week when the storm took a last minute turn and brought snow to portions of central Iowa. Another potent storm is making headlines thousands of miles away.A low-pressure center moved off the coast of Japan last week and moved into the Bering Sea where it has rapidly intensified over the last 48 hours and is moving towards Alaska.
The Bering Sea is known for brutal maritime storms, many of which pack the same power and intensity of similar Tropical systems.The Bering Sea lies over three thousand miles from South Dakota and separates Asia from North America. At its smallest width, it separates Alaska from Russia by only 53 miles and is arguably one of the most dangerous seas in the world.This massive storm is approximately the size of the entire state of Colorado and is headed towards the small Alaskan town of Nome. Wednesday morning the center of pressure was down to 943 mb, which is a very low pressure. Hurricane Irene which caused destruction earlier this year to the East Coast had an all-time low pressure of 942 mb. Had this storm formed in the Tropics, it would be comparable to a low end Category 4, high end Category 3.
(NWS Forecast for Wednesday)Bering Sea Storms are very similar to those that form in the Tropics in that they pack very high winds, high sea surf and storm surge. Many Coastal communities in Alaska are very close to the sea and therefore not much higher than sea level. When storms such as this particular storm occur there is a very high danger for coastal flooding as well as high land erosion.The city of Nome can expect storm surge between 8 and 10 feet above sea-level over the next 48 hours.
Along with storm surge, high winds can be expected as well. Winds gusting up to 100 mph are very possible, along with blowing snow creating white-out conditions and sub-zero wind chills.
Wednesday morning Nome was already seeing sustatined winds around 35 mph and gusts above 45 mph.
(Expected storm surge for Nome)The National Weather Service in Fairbanks issued Winter Storm Warnings ahead of the storm warning of snow totals between 10 to 18 inches of snow, winds in excess of 70 mph and storm surge between 8 and 10 feet.Strong Winter Storms are quite common in this area, however one this strong with a pressure this low is actually quite unique. Pressure is usually a good indication of how strong a storm can be, but many factors also contribute. The last major "Super" Storm was in 2009 but was not nearly as low in pressure. The last storm to hit the Bering Sea and Alaska was back on November 11th 1974, with it's lowest pressure at only 969mb. While this storm may be historical for the Bering Sea, it is still very far off of some major low pressure records. The lowest pressure ever recorded on Earth was 870 mb. That pressure reading was taken in the eye of Typhoon Tip in 1979.For us here in the Sioux Empire, we can expect Breezy NW winds Wednesday afternoon gusting to around 35 mph and abundant sunshine. Another COLD day Thursday before a warm front moves in just in time for the weekend. As for rain and snow chances, there are no really good chances for precipitation of any form in the next 7days.