‘Atmospheric river’ feeds rains and snow in the Pacific Northwest

A strong storm fed by an “atmospheric river” brought rain, snow and the threat of flooding and avalanches Monday to the Pacific Northwest.

Forecasters said daily rainfall records in Seattle and elsewhere could be broken and on Monday afternoon a new daily record was set with 2.33 inches (5.9 centimeters) of rain. The previous daily record for Feb. 28 was 1.46 inches (3.7 centimeters) set in 1972, according to the National Weather Service. The new record also took the place of the fourth wettest February day on record, the agency said.

Seattle’s 48-hour rainfall total of 3.73 inches (9.5 centimeters) was on pace to exceed normal rainfall for the entire month of February, forecasters said via Twitter.

Heavy snowfall and avalanche danger closed Snoqualmie and Stevens Passes, routes over the Cascade Mountains that connect western Washington and eastern Washington. Stevens Pass reopened on Monday afternoon while Snoqualmie Pass was due to open around 5 p.m., transportation officials said.

The Northwest Avalanche Center has issued warnings for nearly all of its forecast areas. “A slide initiation is likely and will be large enough to bury or kill you. Avoid traveling in or under avalanche terrain,” the center said.

A flood watch was in effect through Wednesday for rivers in the greater Seattle area. The Skokomish River in Mason County was at its flood stage Monday morning with dozens more expected to crest by Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Flooding closed some roads in Washington and Oregon on Monday afternoon and forecasters warned of an increased threat of landslides.

A flood watch has also been issued for the northwest coast of Oregon.

Atmospheric river storms are fed by long, wide plumes of moisture from the Pacific.

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