While more than 90% of the West is currently in some sort of drought, the one area that doesn’t need more rain is getting all of it.
The region known for gray skies and rainfall is getting more than its fair share this month.
The Pacific Northwest has gotten more rain in the last two weeks than they normally see for the entire month of November, which is also stacking up to be one of the top five wettest Novembers on record for Seattle.
“November rainfall through Sunday was 6.83 inches. The normal for the entire month is 6.31,” said Maddie Kristell, meteorologist for the National Weather Service (NWS) in Seattle.
An atmospheric river pumps incredible amounts of moisture off the Pacific into the Pacific Northwest, resulting in heavy rain. You can see the moisture being pulled in on this water vapor image.
“We are on the tail end of a series of two atmospheric rivers that we have had in quick succession, almost back to back,” she said.
The current Category 5 atmospheric river taking aim at the region is on the exact same track as the last event several days ago.
Extreme rainfall, river flooding, damaging winds and even landslides are all on the table with this system.
The NWS office in Seattle mentioned, “Record-breaking flooding is forecast for the Skagit River at Mount Vernon,” north of Seattle.
Towns around the expected high water have been ordered to evacuate ahead of the event to help minimize possible dangers.
Rainfall totals with the storm have been impressive. “Some parts of the Olympic peninsula have seen 6 or 7 inches, and even parts of the Cascades have seen 4-6 inches as well,” said Kristell.
Also contributing to the flooding is snowmelt.
Areas previously covered with snow are now receiving rain, causing it to quickly melt and run off into the rivers, contributing to their rapid rise.
According to the NWS in Seattle, 6.24 inches of rain fell at Sumas, WA and 5.21 inches fell at Mount Baker in just a 24-hour period.
With all the added saturation to the soil, landslides will not only be a hazard during the atmospheric river event, but after, as the soil remains wet and unstable.
High winds will also be a huge concern. Area wide, winds are forecast to gust 30-35 mph, but near Skagit County, where major river flooding is expected to take place, winds could gust 60 mph or more.
“In terms of wind, that ties in for our threat to extended tree damage. We could be facing some power outages in the area as well,” said Kristell.
She is hoping her region gets a break from the rain in the coming days, but another system could impact the region by the end of the week.
“It’s definitely been a unique situation having two atmospheric river events pointed at the same area, that being our coast and Washington in general,” Kristell added.
“I think it’s somewhat jarring to a lot of people in the area, considering we had a considerable dry stretch this summer where it didn’t rain for a while and we had the heat wave as well. So kind of bouncing between opposite ends of the spectrum this year, so it’s been pretty dynamic for folks in the area.”
An early look at Thanksgiving travel
If you are getting out of town early for Thanksgiving, consider yourself lucky. Things could get pretty dicey as we get closer to the holiday.
The weather this weekend looks rather tranquil. There will be a quick show of rain and snow for parts of the Great Lakes.
Rain will develop across the Mississippi Valley for the latter part of the weekend, and more rain is expected for northwest Washington.
However, as we get into the days leading to Thanksgiving, travel could become a bit of a nightmare if you believe the American computer forecast weather model this far out.
The American model hints at a storm for the Northeast and New England, while the European model isn’t picking up on it at all.
Cities we will be watching closely for Thanksgiving travel next week will be:
- Seattle: for rain early in the week
- Washington, DC: for rain a few days before Thanksgiving
- New York City: for rain and even snow several days before Thanksgiving
- Boston: for rain, snow and wind before Thanksgiving
As far as temperatures go for Thanksgiving week, “Looks like a shot of cold air mainly for the lower Midwest and South for Tuesday and Wednesday morning,” said CNN meteorologist Monica Garrett.
“There’s a slight rebound, then another more widespread cold shot for Friday and Saturday, especially for the Northeast.”
All of this being said, Thanksgiving is more than a week away, so put the information on your radar, and know it will most likely change or adjust in the days leading to Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, intense storms over the weekend resulted in a tornado swarm on Long Island and in Connecticut, while millions of people experienced damaging winds, hail and heavy rainfall. The storms, associated with a cold front, moved over the area Saturday. The tornado was rated an EF0, with winds of 85 mph. A tree fell on a home, and a roof was ripped from a two-story house during the storm. [CNN]