A massive wind and rainstorm that began on Friday is causing flooding and mudslides in the Pacific Northwest near the Canadian border, leading to the closure of an interstate highway, evacuations and power outages.
On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a severe weather state of emergency for 14 counties in the western part of the state.
Landslides caused by rain and wind as well as saturated soil from an earlier storm led to the closure of Interstate 5 overnight. The West Coast’s main north-south highway, which had been blocked off in both directions, partially reopened Tuesday morning.
Dramatic drone video posted by the city of Bellingham, Wash., showed abandoned cars in streets completely submerged by floodwaters and people using kayaks to get around.
Multiple areas of the state faced evacuations and more than 158,0000 customers in western Washington had no power at one point Monday afternoon, the Associated Press reported. Many schools were also closed or delayed.
Flood warnings remained in effect for several counties into Tuesday afternoon, but the National Weather Service said the high waters were expected to recede.
Washington State Department of Transportation via AP
“Thanks to all the crews working to keep Washingtonians safe,” Inslee tweeted Monday evening.
The devastating flooding also extended into Oregon, where officials in one area rescued 20 people and three dogs from an inundated RV park.
Heavy flooding across the state closed roads, trapped people in their homes and knocked out power in one area, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.
An “atmospheric river” brings the severe weather
Monday’s severe weather was caused by an “atmospheric river” that had been pelting the Pacific Northwest with rain and heavy winds for days, according to the AP.
Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands of water vapor in the sky that often release rain or snow when they make landfall, NOAA says.
Because a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture, it means that climate change makes rain and extreme flooding events even worse.
British Columbia is also facing heavy rain and winds
The storm’s devastating effects were felt across the Canadian border, where wind and storm warnings were in effect across British Columbia on Monday.
The entire city of Merritt was ordered to evacuate after the municipal wastewater treatment plant failed, the CBC reported, and authorities were using helicopters to rescue 275 people who had been stranded on a main highway.
The province saw rain, wind and even forecasted snow that caused power outages and prompted officials to close schools and block some roadways, according to CTV News Vancouver.