Heavy rainfall brought increased risk of flooding to northwest Washington Saturday, and officials warned that residents in Skagit and Whatcom counties — already battered by flooding earlier this month — should again be prepared.
The National Weather Service doesn’t expect the flooding to be as severe as before. Most of the expected flooding will be moderate, although heavier flooding is possible for the Skagit River, said weather service meteorologist Steve Reedy.
Those still recovering from earlier flooding were on high alert. Residents of Sumas and Everson, near the border with Canada, were advised to evacuate Saturday as a precaution.
A flood watch is in place through Monday morning for Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties, as well as the Olympic Peninsula. To the east, Chelan and Okanogan counties will be under a flood watch from Saturday night through Monday.
“We are looking for a fair amount of rivers to go into flood stage over the next 48 hours,” Reedy said Saturday afternoon.
Most will likely approach flood stage late Saturday or early Sunday, Reedy said. In Skagit and Whatcom counties, rivers will likely crest Sunday afternoon.
The Skagit River is of particular concern, Reedy said. It’s expected to approach major flooding levels Sunday afternoon, although it may be moderate depending on the amount of rainfall.
A flood watch means flooding is possible and that residents should stay updated and be prepared to move to higher ground. The National Weather Service will be monitoring conditions and will upgrade to a flood warning if residents should take action.
The Seattle area had received about half an inch of rain by Saturday afternoon and should see another half inch to an inch the rest of the weekend, Reedy said. Skagit and Whatcom counties and coastal areas could see more, with 1 to 2 inches expected by Monday.
While any flooding is not expected to match what these communities saw a few weeks ago, the back-to-back rainfall leads to a “compounding issue,” Reedy said.
“We really didn’t get the chance to know what damage and changes were made to the rivers,” Reedy said. “There’s a little bit of unpredictability about what will occur with this current round.”
State officials are still assessing damage from severe flooding earlier this month. Whatcom County officials said damage may be as high as $50 million.
There, in the city of Sumas, an estimated 75% of homes sustained water damage and more than 500 rescues and evacuations were reported. Residents, who are still working to clean up, now face the possibility of another round of flooding.
Residents received an alert Saturday afternoon advising they evacuate that night as a precaution. Officials said they would use a flood siren to alert residents if water from the Nooksack River goes over Main Street in nearby Everson. It’s possible that water will overtop a levee there Sunday morning, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked Saturday to repair Nooksack River levees damaged by flooding. But the Sheriff’s Office warned, “Even with repairs, the levee system has been stressed and could be vulnerable in the next storm event.”
The Red Cross has set up shelter at the fairgrounds in Lynden for those who evacuate. The Washington State National Guard and local agencies are distributing sandbags and preparing for water rescues in case they are needed.
ICYMI: Whatcom County has established a call center (360-788-5303) for those impacted by recent flooding. The call center is intended to respond to callers 8-5 daily. After hours callers may leave messages, including in Spanish. pic.twitter.com/xqjyXfQC8f
Residents in flood watch areas should know where to seek higher ground, prepare with sandbags and remember not to drive into standing water, Reedy said. They should also be prepared for rockslides and landslides.
The atmospheric river that brought the rain also carried warm air into the region, raising snow levels. Travelers driving through the passes shouldn’t face snow or ice.
Western Washington should see a break in the rain late Monday, and possibly into Tuesday morning, before the next weather system makes its way here.
“And fortunately that system doesn’t look like it will stay with us for too long,” Reedy said. “Once that leaves us Wednesday, it looks like the last half of the week will be pretty dry.”
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