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Thursday, February 22, 2024
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“Pacific Northwest Braces for Intense ‘Atmospheric River’ Bringing Heavy Rainfall and Substantial Snowfall”1

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Atmospheric River As the Northwest braces for impactful weather, multiple atmospheric rivers are set to unleash a series of storms, promising substantial rain and significant snowfall across the region.

Forecasted Onslaught: Cascading Storms Target the Northwest

AccuWeather’s senior meteorologist, Heather Zehr, forecasts a sequence of storms making landfall in the Northwest late this week, extending into the following week. Coastal and lower elevations of Washington and Oregon are anticipated to experience moderate to locally heavy rain, with peak rainfall expected on Friday and continuing through the weekend.

Atmospheric River Impact: Visualizing the Pacific’s Fire Hose

Defined by AccuWeather as a phenomenon resembling a “fire hose” of moisture from the Pacific Ocean, atmospheric rivers extend thousands of miles, delivering constant rain and higher-elevation snow. These “rivers in the sky” contribute significantly to extreme weather events in the western United States.

Snowfall in the Cascades: Anticipating Over a Foot of Accumulation

The National Weather Service predicts heavy snowfall in the higher elevations of the Cascades, with snow totals exceeding a foot. The weather service in Seattle warns of the potential impact of multiple atmospheric rivers, bringing heavy rain and breezy conditions over the weekend and into the next week.

Travel Disruptions and Accumulations: Cascades Passes Face Major Impact

Accompanied by cold air initially, the storms are expected to lower snow levels below 2,000 feet at times, resulting in substantial accumulations of 2-3 feet and significant travel disruptions in the Cascade passes. Moisture will also extend inland, affecting the Great Basin and Northern Rockies with a mix of rain and snow.

Flooding Concerns: Rapid Rises on Rivers Expected

The forecast predicts several inches of rain over the lowlands and upwards of 10 inches or more in the Cascades and Olympics. This raises concerns about rapid rises on rivers, especially in susceptible areas, potentially leading to flooding. The weather service in Seattle highlights the Skokomish River in Mason County and other rivers in the Olympic and Cascade basins as particularly vulnerable.

Relieving Drought Conditions: Silver Lining in Incoming Moisture

Despite the threats posed by the incoming storms, Bill Deger, AccuWeather senior meteorologist, notes a positive aspect. The moisture is expected to provide relief to drought conditions in the region. Currently, significant portions of western Washington and western Oregon are experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, as per the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.

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