Trio of rain and wind storms in store for Whatcom, but major flooding not expected

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A trio of “atmospheric river” storms are lining up to soak Western Washington and British Columbia over the next week, although forecasts, at least for now, show that the Nooksack River will crest at or below flood stage.

At the National Weather Service in Seattle, meteorologists are predicting typical November storms, with periods of heavy rain and breezy winds starting Wednesday night, Nov. 24, through Friday, Nov. 26.

After a short break, another storm arrives with heavy rain Saturday.

And a third storm could hit Whatcom County on Tuesday, but even that isn’t expected to produce the kind of deluge that caused last week’s catastrophic flooding in Whatcom County.

“This is not going to be a repeat of that big flood event,” said meteorologist Gary Schneider at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

“If you’re outside cleaning up from the last event, you’re going to be wet and cold. The rivers will be running high,” Schneider told The Bellingham Herald.

At least the first two storms will be rain on snow events, with rain in the North Cascades at elevations below 5,000 to 6,000 feet.

Warmer temperatures in the mountains dashed hopes for a Thanksgiving opening at the Mt. Baker Ski Area, according to its website.

Much of the heaviest rainfall is expected to track north of Whatcom County to Vancouver Island and southern British Columbia, the National Weather Service said.

The National Weather Service Seattle is forecasting between a half inch and an inch of rain in the lowlands of much of western Washington from the first of three storm systems expected to move through the area over the next few days.
The National Weather Service Seattle is forecasting between a half inch and an inch of rain in the lowlands of much of western Washington from the first of three storm systems expected to move through the area over the next few days.

Environment Canada issued a heavy rainfall warning for 2 to 3 inches of rain at Abbotsford, B.C., just across the border from Sumas, where torrential rains last week caused widespread flooding.

“This storm will be shorter-lived and less intense than the event over November 13-15,” Environment Canada said online.

But the Wednesday-Friday storms will bring moderate to heavy rain and strong winds, localized flooding in low-lying areas and water pooling on roadways, Environment Canada said.

“All three of these systems look wet enough to be anointed with the atmospheric river label of wetness — especially for the B.C. coast,” the National Weather Service said in its online forecast discussion Wednesday, Nov. 24.

In Whatcom County, data from the Northwest River Forecast Center shows the Nooksack River cresting above “action stage” but remaining below minor flood stage in Ferndale on Monday, Nov. 29, in the wake of the first two atmospheric rivers.

A crest just above minor flood stage was expected Sunday night near Nugent’s Corner.

Nevertheless, Whatcom County officials told The Herald that they are aware of the forecast and ready to act if needed.

“We don’t anticipate the type of damage that we saw before.,” said John Gargett, deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

“We don’t see these weather systems impacting recovery efforts. But we’re prepared to respond if necessary. We are watching all these weather systems very carefully and keeping an eye on their cumulative effects,” Gargett said.

In a “hydrologic outlook” statement posted Wednesday morning at the National Weather Service website, meteorologist Reid Wolcott said the persistent rain will increase the possibility of landslides.

Whatcom County’s Emergency Operations Center said late Wednesday that ground saturated by heavy rain could cause other problems.

“Existing storm drains, ditches and retention ponds remain at or near capacity from the previous storm system, and soils are saturated,” spokeswoman Marie Duckworth said in an emailed statement.

“These conditions increase the possibility of surface and street flooding, standing water, and other water-related flooding events. Public Works employees are on call and ready to respond during the holiday weekend if any additional flooding occurs. Saturated soils also increase the likelihood of landslides or mudslides. If you live in a slide-prone area, please monitor the area and call 911 if you believe a slide is occurring or has occurred,” Duckworth said.

Scheider said that the recent wet weather, with the exception of the Pineapple Express storm that caused historic flooding, is typical for November in the Northwest, especially in La Niña year.

November remains Whatcom County’s wettest month, with average monthly total of 5.20 inches as measured at Bellingham International Airport.

Monthly rainfall in Bellingham was at 8.95 inches through Tuesday, Nov. 23.

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