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Big storm rolling into Western Alaska may be losing some steam

Laurel Andrews
An extratropical cyclone that formed rapidly over the Pacific Ocean on Monday is weakening. Many high wind warnings have been cancelled, but stormy weather will continue, and Southwest Alaska is not out of the woods yet. NOAA satellite image

Fierce winds, freezing rain and coastal flooding are forecast for much of Western Alaska and the Aleutian Islands through Friday as a large storm system moves over the Bering Sea, the National Weather Service reports.

A cyclone formed over the Pacific Ocean on Monday in a process called “bombogenesis” -- the rapid intensification of a low-pressure system over 24 hours. But by late Wednesday afternoon, the storm had weakened, canceling many high wind warnings. Western Alaska communities will still face stormy conditions through Friday, though, and the danger of flooding remains widespread throughout Southwestern Alaska.

The National Weather Service warns of rough waters on the Bering Sea through Thursday. Hurricane-force winds have been weakening as the storm moves across the Pacific Ocean and toward Alaska, but winds up to 55 knots and seas reaching 22 feet are forecast for the Bering Sea from the Western Aleutians to the tip of the Seward Peninsula.

The Western and Central Aleutians saw 80 mph gusts on Tuesday. On St. Paul Island, a record wind speed for this date of 71 mph was recorded on Wednesday, shattering the old record of 48 mph set in 2009. The St. Paul harbormaster reported that a shed and a few dumpsters were blown down, and one National Weather Service employee had the satellite dish ripped from the side of his house. A high wind warning is in effect for St. Lawrence Island until midnight Wednesday.

Although many weather warnings have been cancelled as the storm weakens, high wind and coastal flood warnings are in effect across Southwest Alaska and parts of the western coast. Check the latest on your area online at the NWS warnings page.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @Laurel_Andrews