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Borough on standby for approaching storm

Posted: November 8, 2013 - 1:19pm  |  Updated: November 8, 2013 - 3:59pm

With a storm headed from Russia toward Southcentral Alaska, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Incident Management Team is on standby.

“Our team is monitoring this weather and preparing, should we need to be activated,” said Brenda Ahlberg, the borough’s public information officer. “At this point we’re on monitor status, as well as on notice to be ready if we have to be activated this weekend.”

The state map on the National Weather Service Alaska Region’s site was lit up with bright purples indicating offshore areas of storm warnings, reds indicating winter storm warnings coastal flooding, yellows for coastal flood and freezing rain advisories and oranges for winter storm watch.

A special weather statement was published at 6 p.m. for the Kenai Peninsula, announcing a storm off the coast of Russia that is causing a surge of warm air through the Bering Sea and toward mainland Alaska. It is due to arrive on the Kenai Peninsula on Saturday, “causing temperatures to climb above freezing at most locations on Saturday night and Sunday, according to a NWS special weather statement issued at 6 a.m. Friday.

While warmer temperatures may sound like a good thing, the weather feature is expected to result in widespread rain from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage and the Matanuska Susitna Valley, followed by a cold front.

“We’ll be fine today, tonight is going to be partly cloudy to mostly cloudy so the clouds are moving in. Saturday will be mostly cloudy,” Dan Peterson, NWS meteorologist told the Homer News Friday morning. “Saturday night the temperatures will start warming up and we’ll have rain and Sunday rain, heavy at times.”

As the front moves through on Sunday, cold temperatures will change the rain to snow “and the rain is going to freeze on the roads,” said Peterson.

Monday is expected to bring a combination of partly sunny, rain and snow, with temperatures in the 20s and 30s. With the ground already saturated from recent rains and beginning to freeze with colder temperatures, the water will have no place to go and flooding may occur.

“It’s hard to guess the timing of this whole thing, but our concern is that it will freeze and flood in the normal places,” said Peterson. “So, we’ll be keeping our eye on that.”

The quick drop in temperatures could cause accumulations of slush and wet show to begin freezing on roads and icy surfaces on Monday.

“The bad part in my eyes is the rain freezing. That’ll be a mess,” said Peterson.

The U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday announced that Coast Guard units throughout Alaska were preparing for severe weather forecasted for the Bering Sea and Western Alaska.

“The crew of the USCGC Waesche and aircraft crews from Air Station Kodiak have been pre-staged to parts of Western Alaska in advance of several weather advisories which include hurricane force winds and dangerous seas,” said Commander Shawn Decker, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage Chief of Response. “Coast Guard personnel stand ready to work alongside federal and state responders to address concerns and to provide aid for any emergencies that arise in Western Alaska communities as a result of the storm.”

Due to the severity of the weather, the Coast Guard said its ability to respond to emergencies may be impacted and encouraged all mariners to closely monitor radio weather broadcasts and seek shelter in safe ports if able.

Peterson said the waters of Western Alaska remain unstable. The weather pattern arriving from Russia “will push it again, so there’s high surf and coastal flooding all the way up the coast.”

Coastal flood warnings have been issued for the Kuskokwim Delta. A winter storm warning, high surf advisory and coastal flood watch has been issued for the Norton Sound and Nulato Hills areas. Winter storm warnings also have been issued for the Kobuk, Noatak Valleys, Koyukuk, the Yukon valley and the Brooks Range.

Peterson said he was receiving lots of phone calls with requests for information about the weather.

“That’s good,” he said. “It’s helping us get the word out.”

• For weather updates, visit arh.noaa.gov

• For information about preparing for emergency situations, visit ak-prepared.com.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

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