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Washington faces threat of more ‘atmospheric rivers,’ floods

SEATTLE (AP) — A week and a half after damaging floods in Washington state, forecasters warned that multiple “atmospheric rivers” threaten to once again drench the Pacific Northwest beginning Thanksgiving Day.

More moisture from atmospheric rivers — huge plumes of moisture extending over the Pacific and into the Northwest — is expected to bring up to 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of rain in some areas hit by the recent flooding, forecasters said.

Officials from the National Weather Service predict periods of moderate to heavy rain through Wednesday, as the first in a series of systems move across the region.

The state is assessing millions of dollars in damage from the last atmospheric rivers.

In northwest Washington’s Whatcom County, officials say damage costs could reach as high as $50 million.

Whatcom County officials said that the damage for recent flooding was estimated at $15 million to $20 million for houses, “tens of millions of dollars” for public infrastructure and up to $20 million for area business centers, the Bellingham Herald reported on Tuesday.

Rain drenched the county for three days and the Nooksack River surged over its banks Nov. 14, inundating the communities of Everson, Nooksack and Sumas.

During that time the U.S.-Canada border closed in the small city of Sumas, three bridges in Bellingham were closed and landslides blocked Interstate 5 south of Bellingham.

Jon Hutchings, director of the Whatcom County Public Works Department, said it’s been 30-plus years since flooding of this scale hit the area.

Meanwhile, damage assessments have continued in 13 other western Washington counties that Gov. Jay Inslee declared as disaster areas with the hope of getting federal aid.
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