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Weather Service warns of severe Bering Sea storm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The National Weather Service is warning that a severe Bering Sea storm has the potential for widespread damage when it hits western Alaska.

Forecasters expect 40 to 55 mph winds with higher gusts Tuesday night and Wednesday over the west coast.

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."

Gusts to 70 mph can be expected along the Chukotsk Peninsula and near Kotzebue, 75 mph over St. Lawrence Island and the Bering Strait coast. Forecasters say near-hurricane force winds will generate 20-foot seas over the Chukchi Sea and 15-to-25-feet seas over the northern Bering Sea.

"The main concern with this storm will be the potential for a storm surge generating a coastal flood situation in the Norton Sound area. Nome is in the cross hairs for that. Hurricane force gusts have occurred in Shemya, but that is not unusual and will not likely result in any significant damage if any damage at all. Nome is a large community by Alaska standards, around 5000 people," said Sam Albanese, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service Anchorage forecast office.

Winds will push large amounts of water into Norton Sound, raising sea levels eight to nine feet above normal Tuesday night through Wednesday. That will cause beach erosion and flooding along Norton Sound and may push Norton Bay ice on shore.

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