NATIONAL NEWS

Atmospheric river soaks Pacific Northwest with record-breaking rain and unusually warm temperatures

Dec 5, 2023, 11:10 AM | Updated: 11:52 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard rescued five people from flooded areas on Tuesday as an atmospheric river brought heavy rain, flooding and unseasonably warm temperatures to the Pacific Northwest.

The conditions also closed rail links, schools and roads in some areas and shattered daily rainfall and temperature records in Washington state.

In southwest Washington, a Coast Guard helicopter plucked a man from the roof of his truck in floodwaters near the hamlet of Rosburg and also rescued four people who were trapped in a house surrounded by 4 feet (1.2 meters) of water, a Coast Guard statement said.

Amtrak said that no passenger trains will be running between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, until Thursday because of a landslide. The National Weather Service issued flood warnings in parts of western Washington, including in areas north and east of Seattle and across a large swath of the Olympic Peninsula.

The wet conditions also brought warm temperatures to the region. At 64 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 Celsius) in Walla Walla in southwestern Washington, it was as warm as parts of Florida and Mexico, according to the NWS. Seattle reported 59 F (15 C) at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, breaking its previous daily record high, the weather service said.

Atmospheric rivers, sometimes known as a “Pineapple Express” because the long and narrow bands of water vapor convey warm subtropical moisture across the Pacific from near Hawaii, delivered enormous amounts of rain and snow to California last winter.

On the Olympic Peninsula, the small town of Forks — whose claim to fame is being the rainiest town in the contiguous U.S. — saw its rainfall record for Dec. 4 more than double after it received about 3.8 inches (9.65 centimeters) of rain, the NWS said. By early Tuesday morning, it had recorded 4.7 inches (11.94 centimeters) of rain over 24 hours — more rainfall than Las Vegas has received in all of 2023, according to the agency.

About 100 miles (160 kilometers) farther south, the daily rainfall record for Dec. 4 was broken in Hoquiam, which received about 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters) of rain on Monday, the NWS said. Seattle also set a new rainfall record for that date with 1.5 inches (3.81 centimeters), said Kirby Cook, science and operations officer at the NWS office in Seattle.

“We’ll continue to see significant impacts, especially with river crests and rises on area rivers” through Wednesday morning, he said.

A section of Washington State Route 106 was closed as rising water levels in the Skokomish River overflowed onto the roadway, state transportation officials said.

In Granite Falls, Washington, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) north of Seattle, video posted on social media by Kira Mascorella showed water surrounding homes and flooding driveways and yards. Mascorella, who lives in nearby Arlington, said it was “pouring down rain” when she woke up Tuesday and was still raining hard late in the afternoon. She said she called out of work because of water on the roadways and wasn’t sure if they would be passable Wednesday.

In Monroe, Washington, fire and rescue crews reported bringing to safety four people and a dog who had been trapped in a park by swollen waters.

A landslide closed parts of a Seattle trail popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists, the city’s parks department said. Crews were assessing the damage to the Burke-Gilman Trail and working on setting up detour routes.

Heavy rains also battered Oregon. Parts of coastal U.S. Highway 101 were closed because of flooding, including in areas around Seaside and at the junctions with U.S. Route 26 and Oregon Route 6, the state’s transportation department said.

At least three school districts along the Oregon coast shuttered for the day because of flooding and road closures.

Officials have urged drivers to use caution, avoid deep water on roadways and expect delays.

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Atmospheric river soaks Pacific Northwest with record-breaking rain and unusually warm temperatures