'Epic' Alaska storm effect downgraded for B.C.

A storm of "epic proportions" clobbered Alaska Wednesday and another similarly intense system will hit the state this weekend, but it's now expected to have a much weaker ripple effect in British Columbia.
Children play in sea foam near the Nome harbour as the big Bering Sea storm starts kicking up in Alaska this week. (Peggy Fagerstrom/Associated Press)

The potentially wild weather previously forecast for B.C. this weekend now looks more like a typically windy and wet few days after all.

A storm of "epic proportions" in southwestern Alaska caused more flooding overnight and left communities along the state's western coast bracing for another possible sea surge Thursday.

But instead of barrelling down B.C.'s North Coast, the storm has veered into eastern Russia, says Environment Canada meteorologist David Jones.

"That storm wreaked a lot of havoc up in Alaska. But the storm itself has curved well to the north and moved into Siberia," Jones said. 

Residents in Alaska were sent fleeing to higher ground on Wednesday evening as the storm tore roofs from homes and knocked out power.

Jones said another storm possibly equally as intense as Wednesday's is moving into the Aleutian panhandle in Alaska this weekend, but the ripple effect in B.C. will be minimal.

"That storm will send a weak front or a weakening system down the coast of B.C. that will result in some rain and some wind but nothing spectacular," said Jones.

Jones said the weather system will bring good news for skiers in southwestern B.C., however.

"For the next six or seven days, it looks like we’re in a great pattern for accumulation of snow in the hills," he said.

The Alaskan storm was the most powerful to hit the state in four decades and carried with it heavy snows and rains.

'This is a storm of epic proportions'

Emergency officials warned that areas on Alaska's western coast between Norton Sound and Point Hope were vulnerable to a possible surge of sea water that could bring varying degrees of flooding to villages already soaked.

In Nome, the tide crested three metres above normal late Wednesday, causing flooding along the town's main street, which runs along the beach and features gift shops and bars. The U.S. National Weather Service said strong winds ripped roofs from some buildings in Nome. There was a report that one building lost its front wall.

The storm produced well above hurricane-force winds, around 137 km/h, but emergency managers said that the winds had begun to taper off and were clocked with still-potent gusts of 89 km/h. The storm passed through more southern points of its path.

A flight status screen in Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport shows cancelled flights to western Alaskan cities in Achorage on Tuesday due to the storm. (Nathaniel Wilder/Reuters)

So far, 37 communities have reported some form of damage, said Jeremy Zidek, spokesman for the state's emergency management agency.

Most of those communities have opened emergency community shelters, Zidek said.

"This is a storm of epic proportions," said meteorologist Jeff Osiensky with the National Weather Service. "We're not out of the woods with this."

The last time the communities saw something similar was in November 1974, when a storm created a sea surge that measured more than four metres. The surge pushed beach driftwood above the level of the previous storm of its type in 1913.

With files from The Associated Press