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Is a Former Hurricane Really Headed for Alaska?

oho NASAWhile the lower 48 has enjoyed a mostly inactive Atlantic basin hurricane season, it’s perhaps the last place in America that one would expect a former hurricane to make landfall. 

Alaska? Yes, that Alaska, could be directly impacted by  the remnants of Hurricane Oho, which as of Thursday afternoon has been downgraded to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles-per-hour (MPH)  as it raced away from Hawaii at a lightning-quick 45 MPH. The storm was beginning to weaken as it moving into the cooler waters of the northeast Pacific Ocean, but there are several factors that could keep 40mph wind strength by the time it reaches the Alaskan panhandle later Friday or early Saturday.

The storm’s quick speed and northward trajectory would mean significant impacts for the Alaskan panhandle as early as Saturday, with strong winds and heavy rainfall on the docket for areas such as Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau. Oho’s incredibly fast movement means that a warm, tropics-based core – and thus tropical elements such as high rainfall rates and wind speeds exceeding 50 MPH – could soon be on the horizon for America’s 49th state. 

Remnants of tropical systems frequently batter Alaska, particularly the Aleutian Islands, which extend over a thousand miles off the Alaskan mainland towards Russia. The remnants of western Pacific typhoons and tropical storms often curve into the north Pacific, bashing the islands with heavy rain and strong winds. Those remnants will often lash the panhandle with remnant rainfall as well. But full tropical storms are, as one might expect, an incredibly rare feat for Alaska. According to NOAA’s hurricane records, Tropical Storm Phyllis in July 1972, making a possible landfall near Attu Island in the far western Aleutians.

The Central Pacific Hurricane center’s forecast, as of Wednesday afternoon, called for the storm to hold together as a tropical storm and make a landfall somewhere along the southern portion of the Alaskan panhandle late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

For the Alaskan panhandle, the rainfall is entirely unnecessary. Juneau, the state’s capital located in the heart of the panhandle, has seen its wettest start to a calendar year through September. The city has seen nearly 20 inches more precipitation than usual.

For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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