We are prestaging helicopters from Air Station Kodiak to parts of Western Alaska in response to severe weather advisories including hurricane force winds and high seas that are forecast all along the west coast of Alaska," said Capt. Daniel Travers, Coast Guard District 17 chief of incident management.
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter is currently stationed in Cold Bay as a response platform for the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery. The Coast Guard Cutter Sherman's embarked MH-65 Dolphin helicopter has been diverted to Dutch Harbor to stand by as a search and rescue asset and a second Jayhawk helicopter may be sent to Western Alaska from Kodiak.
Coast Guard personnel in Anchorage are working with emergency responders from the State of Alaska and FEMA to address concerns and to prepare for any needs that arise in Western Alaska communities as a result of the storm.
The Coast Guard and commercial services are currently responding to a request for assistance from the 143-foot fishing trawler Rebecca Irene 138 miles northwest of Unimak Pass in the Bering Sea. Communications Station Kodiak received a call from the master of the fishing vessel at 3:45 a.m. reporting that one of their engines had become inoperable and they were underway with limited propulsion. They are headed toward Unimak Island at about 6 mph with 34 people aboard. The weather is forecast to degrade to 55 mph winds with seas of 35-feet by late afternoon.
Coast Guard District 17 search and rescue controllers issued an urgent marine information broadcast requesting the assistance of any mariners in the area and diverted the Sherman from its patrol to assist. The Sherman is currently on scene and is planning to take all non-essential Rebecca Irene crewmembers aboard. The transfer will be conducted using the Sherman's small boat.
The parent company of the Rebecca Irene has contracted with Magone Marine of Dutch Harbor for the tug Double Eagle to respond and tow the fishing vessel. Their estimated time of arrival to the stricken vessel is unknown at this time.
The vessel is prepared for an emergency with survival suits and life raft accommodations for all the people aboard, but we are sending the Sherman as a preemptive action to further ensure the safety of the crew," said Travers.
UPDATE ANCHORAGE 1:01 pm:
The Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has activated the state Emergency Operations Center on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
Jeremy Zidek with the Alaska Division of Homeland Security says all of the state agencies that would respond to an emergency have representatives in the center.
UPDATE GAMBELL 12:57 pm:
Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, is in the path of the storm but people there haven’t seen much of it yet.
“It hasn’t reached us yet, but we’re aware of it,” says Linda Tungiyan.
The high school in Gambell is being opened to anyone who needs to shelter there.
“We’re all prepared to evacuate if necessary,” she said.
UPDATE NOME 12:18 pm:
Nome School Superintendent Mike Brawner says after a community-wide emergency services meeting this morning school school was cancelled for the day.
“It was determined we needed to do an emergency school closure,” he said. “Last of our kids should be ready to arrive home any moment now.”
Wind gusts are picking up, he said, and the major concern is high gusting winds. Some Front Street businesses were boarding up.
“We’re hearing reports of zero visibility by 5 pm today,” he said.
No determination has been made about school closures tomorrow.
UPDATE KIVALINA 12:05 pm:
Monetta Adams of Kivalina said that the storm was bearing down on the village, which is located on an 8-mile barrier island on the Chukchi Sea northwest of Kotzebue.
“The ocean looks white,” she said. “It’s really blowing out there.”
Kivalina, which has suffered severe erosion in past storms, could be hard hit especially hard by winds and water.
Adams said the village council was meeting to plan.