‘Atmospheric rivers’ threaten new floods in hard-hit Washington state

Flood watches were issued for much of western Washington state on Friday, as storms associated with multiple “atmospheric rivers” threatened parts of the US north-west that saw heavy damage from extreme weather earlier this month.

The National Weather Service warned that flooding was possible through Monday afternoon in places like Bellingham and the greater Seattle area. Heavy rains and rising rivers were expected over the weekend in the Cascade and Olympic mountains.

The moisture is from “atmospheric rivers” – huge plumes of moisture extending over the Pacific and into the US north-west – and could bring up to 3in of rain in some areas hit by recent flooding, forecasters said.

Like parts of western Canada, Washington state is still assessing millions of dollars in damage from the last atmospheric rivers. In north-west Whatcom county, officials said damage costs could reach as high as $50m.

Amid the last floods, the US-Canada border closed in the small city of Sumas, three bridges in Bellingham were closed and landslides blocked Interstate 5 south of the same city.

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