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Rare weather: Oho remnants bringing tropical moisture to Alaska


JUNEAU » The remnants of a tropical storm were expected to bring heavy rains and gusty winds to parts of southeast Alaska on Friday in what is a rare weather event.

Remnants of what was Hurricane Oho were being picked up by a larger low-pressure system, said David Levin, a meteorologist intern with the National Weather Service in Juneau. Between 2 to 6 inches of rain were possible across southeast Alaska through Friday, though there was no immediate threat of flooding. Wind gusts in southern panhandle communities such as Ketchikan could reach up to 80 mph on Friday, with sustained winds between 30 and 40 mph, the agency said.

This is a typically rainy time of year for the region. Officials in Sitka, where three people were killed in an August landslide after 2.5 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, are aware of this storm’s potential and remaining alert, municipal clerk Sara Peterson said.

Oho was among a record number of tropical cyclones in the central Pacific so far this year, which officials attributed to unusually warm ocean temperatures from El Nino. The hurricane season runs through November.

It’s not unusual for Alaska to feel the remnant effects of tropical storms from the west. The last time the remnants of a central Pacific tropical storm reached this far north, however, was 1975, Levin said.

Shaun Baines, a weather service meteorologist in Anchorage, said El Nino provides a favorable environment for the formation of these types of tropical systems, though where they ultimately track depends on the weather patterns in place as they move out of the tropics. What’s unusual in this case is that tropical systems north of Hawaii often fall apart rapidly as they reach cooler water temperatures.

The El Nino environment and warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures in the northeast Pacific, off the northwest coast of the U.S., may be contributing to the ability of storms to survive as they track north of Hawaii, Baines said. If they can survive, there’s a better chance they could affect Alaska, he said.

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