Online tool predicts significant flooding in Puget Sound region

Dec 21, 2015, 5:33 AM | Updated: 8:31 am
Washington areas flooded up to four times so far this season. A new tool developed at the Universit...
Washington areas flooded up to four times so far this season. A new tool developed at the University of Washington predicts flooding of the Snohomish River could become more drastic as Washington's climate changes. (WSDOT)

The Northwest has been hit with round after round of storms this winter, bringing snow to the higher elevations, and heavy rain to the lower communities &#8212 and with that rain comes flooding.

Now a new online tool can show how similar, and worse, flooding will affect Washington in the future.

There are arguments that the Northwest will get hit with more rain, and less snow as the climate changes. That means the elevations where snow will fall could rise, and rain will swell rivers and streams at lower elevations where the snow usually melted gradually.

Enter the the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group which recently launched a new tool to help Washingtonians gauge where future floods are likely to hit. The tool focuses on the Snohomish River, north of Seattle, that meets the Puget Sound near Everett.

GeekWire reports that researchers who developed the online tool “found that the warmer temperatures will push the snow level higher and in effect widen the geographic area that drains into the Snohomish River as more precipitation falls as rain than snow. The climate models also predict heavier winter downpours for this region, all leading to bigger stream flows and higher risk of flooding.”

If the tool is correct, future drivers may need to reconsider travel plans &#8212 I-5’s route may need to be altered as the river is likely to overtake the freeway around Everett. The tool also features photo examples of the rising water levels, showing bridge and farmland giving way to waterways. Communities are also threatened as many are in the new floodplains.

The concern over rising water levels is not new to the region. Seattle’s Georgetown is well aware of flooding, and more, that is likely to affect the neighborhood by 2050.

The rest of Seattle faces similar challenges, and is now in the process of designing extra tunnels underneath Ballard, Fremont and Wallingford to take on the extra flow of storm water that is also causing sewage to spill into Lake Union.

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Online tool predicts significant flooding in Puget Sound region