Floodwaters in Alaska are receding after the remnants of a powerful typhoon pummeled the state’s western coastline. But residents are continuing to grapple with power outages, water damage and concerns about how to survive the coming winter.
This weekend, a low-pressure system spinning out from Alaska made its way down the coast to northern California, bringing rare September rain to the region. The downpours aided efforts to contain the 19 sq mile (49 sq km) Mosquito fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills, but raised new concerns.
“It did help a bit to stifle that aggressive fire,” said CalFire spokesman Scott McLean. “But we’re going to have new safety issues now with all the mud that’s out there. And the ground moisture could cause some of those damaged trees to fall over.”
Lingering showers over the Mosquito fire will increase the risk of ash and mud flows, the National Weather Service said. To the north-west, localized flooding and mudslides were reported in parts of the coast scarred from a massive wildfire two years ago.
Meanwhile, the extent of the damage in Alaska remains unclear across 1,000 miles (1,609km) of coastline affecting “some of the most remote areas of the United States”, said Jeremy Zidek, public information officer with Alaska’s division of homeland security and emergency management. Access to these areas is difficult, he said. Affected communities include Nome, Kotzebue and Unalakleet and smaller villages with predominantly Native Alaskan residents.
The flooding and ensuing damage have not only disrupted locals’ ability to hunt and fish for the season, but also store provisions to last them through the long winter months. Recovery efforts will be especially challenging in a region where some villages are only reachable by air or barge.
The cascading crises up and down the western coast of the US come after scientists have warned for years that global heating will make Alaska more vulnerable to large nontropical cyclones, even as it drives drier, hotter conditions that fuel damaging wildfires across the west.
The tide gauge in Nome on Saturday was 10.52ft (3.2m) above the low tide line, the highest recorded since 1974.
Mary Peltola, the state’s sole congressional representative, said she had been in touch with mayors across the region. Peltola, who is from the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta, encompassing some of the hardest-hit communities, said she is working with the state’s senators too secure more disaster funding.
Governor Mike Dunleavy, who issued a disaster declaration Saturday morning, said that officials hope to speed up recovery efforts before the region begins to freeze up in about three weeks.
In California, bands of rain stretched south into Santa Cruz county and along the central coast, where Highway 1 was briefly closed because of flooding in Big Sur. Precipitation wasn’t expected to reach southern California.