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U.S. Weather

Powerful storm blasts Alaska islands, then weakens

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Nov. 5, 2014: This photo provided by NASA shows a picture captured by NASA's Aqua satellite of Typhoon Nuri. (AP)

A storm fueled by the remnants of a powerful typhoon was losing power Saturday after blasting remote, mostly uninhabited islands that are part of Alaska's Aleutian Islands chain with hurricane-force winds.

The storm was forecast to move slowly eastward, then help generate a high-pressure system that will allow Arctic air to blanket the central plains, starting with eastern Montana and the Dakotas on Sunday. The frigid temperatures are expected to spill south into the central plains on Monday.

The storm's strongest recorded winds were on Shemya Island, where 120 civilian contractors staff an early warning radar installation for the U.S. military.

Sustained winds of 70 mph and gusts up to 96 mph were recorded on Shemya, said Shaun Baines, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

The storm peaked Friday night, Baines said.

Eareckson Air Station on the island 1,500 miles southwest Anchorage suffered minor facility damage, Alaskan Command public affairs officer Tommie Baker said.

The corners of a roof were bent back and some dumpsters moved around, but no roof was torn off and the dumpters didn't slam into any vehicles or buildings, Baker said. Workers locked themselves inside to wait out the storm.

Workers had yet to conduct a full assessment of damage around the entire island, Baker said. But workers there are accustomed to extreme weather, including 100-mile winds. The community averages six weather-related lockdowns a year.

The storm was approaching the Alaska mainland's southwestern coast on Saturday, but it had weakened significantly. It was only expected to bring gale-force winds typical for this time of year, Baines said.

"The worst conditions were out where there's no people," he said.

The storm surpassed the intensity of 2012's Superstorm Sandy as measured by pressure, but a lack of measuring stations in the remote region means meteorologists didn't have much more data. Sandy caused at least 182 deaths and $65 billion in damage on the East Coast. Nuri, in contrast, hit a sparsely populated region with just a few small communities where people are accustomed to severe weather.

The high-pressure system Nuri will help create is expected to send temperatures plunging across a wide swathe of the lower 48 states.  High temperatures were forecast to be below freezing on Tuesday across much of Wyoming to Minnesota and parts of Iowa, said Bruce Sullivan of the National Weather Service's prediction center.

The high in Great Falls, Montana, is expected to be 7 degrees, Sullivan said. By Wednesday, high temperatures will struggle to get out of the low 30s in the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, he said.

"Once it gets its momentum going, it's going to keep going south," Sullivan said.