Huge Bering Sea storm aims at Alaska's west coast

A giant Pacific storm headed toward Alaska's western coast has the potential to cause major coastal flooding, serious beach erosion, heavy snowfall and widespread damage, according to the National Weather Service.

A bulletin issued Monday by the Weather Service said the storm is expected to intensify "into one of the most severe Bering Sea storms on record." The agency is describing the storm as "extremely dangerous and life-threatening."

Areas affected stretch from Scammon Bay in the south all the way north to Point Hope, with blizzard warnings issued starting Tuesday.

"Gusts to 70 mph can be expected along the (Russia's) Chukotsk Peninsula and in areas near Kotzebue," the Weather Service said. "Winds of 60 to 75 mph are expected over St. Lawrence island and the Bering Strait coast. Winds are expected to approach hurricane force over the Chukchi Sea and northern Bering Sea. The strong winds will generate seas to as high as 20 feet over the Chukchi Sea ... and to 15 to 25 feet over the northern Bering Sea.

"The strong winds will push large amounts of water into Norton Sound ... raising sea levels to as high as 8 to 9 feet above normal Tuesday night through Wednesday night. The high sea levels combined with high waves will produce severe beach erosion and major coastal flooding along the northern and eastern shores of Norton sound and along the Bering Strait coast. High water levels will produce coastal flooding along the southern shore of Norton Sound. Strong winds and wave action may push ice in Norton Bay onshore."

Blizzard conditions and heavy snow are forecast throughout the region, with as much as 14 inches possible along the southern Seward Peninsula, the Weather Service said.

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