Flood hours issued in the northwest as some urged to evacuate

Residents in Washington state were bracing for potential flooding as “atmospheric rivers” once again threatened parts of the Northwest, which saw heavy damage from severe weather earlier this month.

People in the small communities of Somes and Iverson in northwest Washington were asked to voluntarily evacuate Saturday night, The Bellingham Herald reported. Both cities near the Canadian border experienced severe flooding from the previous storm.

An emergency warning said road closures in the area could start as early as Sunday morning.

Hours of flooding were issued across much of western and north-central Washington over the weekend, and the National Weather Service warned that flooding is possible through Sunday.

Heavy rain and surging rivers are also expected over the weekend in the Cascade Mountains in the center of the state and the Olympic Mountains near the coast.

“We expect rivers to rise, and the potential for flooding in some locations by early tomorrow morning. Right now, rivers are not flooding,” Gary Schneider, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Seattle office, said Saturday morning.

Schneider said that if flooding occurs, it will likely happen Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Forecasters say an atmospheric river β€” a huge plume of moisture that stretches over the Pacific Ocean and into the northwest β€” could bring up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain in some areas affected by recent floods.

The state is still estimating millions of dollars in losses from the latest storm, which is also blamed on a river in the atmosphere.

In Whatcom County, northwest Washington, officials said damage costs could be as high as $50 million.

Recent flooding closed the US-Canada border in Somas and three bridges in Bellingham, as landslides closed Highway 5 south of Bellingham.

Schneider said the river’s atmospheric event this weekend shouldn’t be as “extreme” as it did earlier this month.

β€œThe rain event is still very relevant, but (the floods earlier this month) was kind of a historical event. So we don’t expect that to happen again,” Schneider said.

Meteorologists expect rainfall will wane on Sunday and Monday will be relatively dry.


Sarah Klein is a panellist for the Associated Press/Reporting for the America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national nonprofit service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report confidential issues.

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