Coastal Flood Watch Remains in Effect

I woke up and turned on the radio this morning in time to hear the morning fellow recommend paying attention to the weather.  Since most folks here do that anyway, it was obvious that something a bit unusual was coming.

…COASTAL FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM AKDT SATURDAY THROUGH LATE SATURDAY NIGHT…

A COASTAL FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM AKDT SATURDAY THROUGH LATE SATURDAY NIGHT. LOW PRESSURE 400 MILES NORTH OF BARROW EARLY THIS AFTERNOON WILL STRENGTHEN TONIGHT AS THE LOW MOVES SOUTH. BY SATURDAY MORNING THE LOW IS EXPECTED TO BE ABOUT 250 MILES NORTH OF BARROW. STRONG NORTHWEST WINDS WILL DEVELOP ALONG THE BACKSIDE OF THE LOW. WIND SPEEDS OF AROUND 25 KNOTS ARE EXPECTED IN BARROW LATE TONIGHT THROUGH SATURDAY NIGHT WITH WINDS TO 35 KNOTS OFFSHORE.

THE SEA ICE IS NOW NEAR SEASONAL MINIMUMS AND THERE IS OPEN WATER SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES TO THE NORTHWEST OF BARROW. THIS WILL CAUSE SEAS NEAR SHORE TO BUILD TO 9 TO 13 FEET ON SATURDAY. THE SEAS ARE EXPECTED TO BREAK ALONG OR NEAR SHORE. IN ADDITION TO THE HIGH SEAS A STORM SURGE OF UP TO 2 FEET IS POSSIBLE AROUND THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE SATURDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT. SIGNIFICANT BEACH EROSION IS EXPECTED WITH MINOR COASTAL FLOODING POSSIBLE AROUND THE TIMES OF HIGH TIDE. THE AREA AROUND STEVENSON STREET NEAR THE BOAT LAUNCH BY THE CITY PLAYGROUND IS PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO FLOODING. OTHER LOW SPOTS ON DOWN THE BEACH WILL ALSO HAVE THE POTENTIAL FOR MINOR FLOODING.

ADDITIONALLY…SIGNIFICANT EROSION TO THE BLUFFS ARE LIKELY AS WELL.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS

… A COASTAL FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS FAVORABLE FOR FLOODING ARE EXPECTED TO DEVELOP. COASTAL RESIDENTS SHOULD BE ALERT FOR LATER STATEMENTS OR WARNINGS…AND TAKE ACTION TO PROTECT PROPERTY. NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE PREPARATIONS AND MOVE ALL PROPERTY WELL AWAY FROM THE BEACH.

Not what I needed to hear…   Turns out it’s the first big fall storm.  With the ice so far out, that means lots of room for the wind to put energy into the water, which means big waves and a storm surge.  That means beach erosion for sure, and maybe coastal flooding.  Our weather forecasts here are a bit less accurate than those most other places, because there are no observing stations where the weather is coming from.  It’s sort of like trying to predict weather in Pennsylvania using data from nothing but a weather station in Chicago.

I don’t like fall storms and coastal erosion.  Aside from the dangers associated with flooding (the house I live in floated in 1963, and if it does it again we might wind up in a sewage lagoon), erosion is the most immediate threat to coastal archaeological sites.  I spend my summers trying to organize things so that we got well ahead of erosion at Nuvuk and now are trying to stay that way.

2004 fall storm erodes Nuvuk
Nuvuk bluff slumps from effects of surf

The thing is, Nuvuk, where “the houses are all gone under the sea” to borrow T.S. Elliot’s phrase, is just one of many important sites.  Utqiagvik, Nunagiak, Ipiutak, Tikigak (Point Hope), and so on down the coast.  Most of the sites on the Beaufort coast from Point Barrow east to the Mackenzie River Delta in Canada have already washed away and out of the archaeological record.

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