Record-Breaking Atmospheric River Drenches Pacific Northwest, Disrupting Transportation and Elevating Temperatures

by Michael Nguyen
Atmospheric River Impact

The Pacific Northwest has been deluged by an atmospheric river, causing widespread flooding, record-breaking warm temperatures, and disruptions across the region. Washington state has been particularly impacted, with significant transportation shutdowns, including the halting of Amtrak service between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, due to a landslide. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings in western Washington, notably around Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula.

This weather event has also brought unusually high temperatures to the area. Walla Walla, in southwestern Washington, reported a high of 64 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 degrees Celsius), matching the warmth of certain areas in Florida and Mexico. Seattle broke its daily record high with a temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) early Tuesday morning.

Atmospheric rivers, such as the “Pineapple Express,” are known for their warm, moist air originating near Hawaii. These systems can transport large volumes of water vapor, as seen last winter in California.

Forks, a town on the Olympic Peninsula renowned for its rainfall, experienced a record-breaking 3.8 inches (9.65 centimeters) of rain on December 4, exceeding its previous record. By Tuesday morning, it had accumulated 4.7 inches (11.94 centimeters) of rain in 24 hours, surpassing the total rainfall Las Vegas has seen throughout 2023.

In Hoquiam, approximately 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) south, another daily rainfall record was broken with 2.6 inches (6.60 centimeters) on Monday. Seattle also surpassed its daily rainfall record with 1.5 inches (3.81 centimeters). Kirby Cook of the NWS in Seattle anticipates continued significant impacts, particularly with rising river levels.

Flooding led to the closure of Washington State Route 106, with the Skokomish River overflowing onto the roadway. The NWS expected record-breaking precipitation and temperatures in western Washington on Tuesday.

A landslide also forced the closure of a popular Seattle trail, affecting walkers, joggers, and cyclists. The city’s parks department reported damage to the Burke-Gilman Trail and is working on alternative routes.

Oregon faced similar challenges, with heavy rainfall leading to the closure of parts of coastal U.S. Highway 101 due to flooding. School closures were reported in at least three districts along the Oregon coast due to flooding and road blockages.

Authorities have advised caution to drivers, warning against waterlogged roads and anticipating delays.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Atmospheric River Impact

What is an atmospheric river and how did it affect the Pacific Northwest?

An atmospheric river is a long, narrow band of water vapor that can carry warm, moist air from the tropics to other parts of the world. In this case, it brought heavy rain and warm temperatures to the Pacific Northwest, causing widespread flooding, disrupting transportation, and breaking daily rainfall and temperature records in the region.

How did the atmospheric river impact transportation in the Pacific Northwest?

The atmospheric river led to significant disruptions in transportation. Amtrak services between Seattle and Portland were suspended due to a landslide. In addition, Washington State Route 106 was closed due to flooding, and a popular Seattle trail was shut down following a landslide.

What record-breaking temperatures were reported in the Pacific Northwest due to the atmospheric river?

Record-breaking temperatures were reported in various parts of the Pacific Northwest. Walla Walla in Washington reached 64 degrees Fahrenheit (17.8 Celsius), while Seattle recorded a temperature of 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius) early on a Tuesday morning, breaking its previous daily record high.

Were there any school closures due to the atmospheric river event?

Yes, the atmospheric river event led to school closures in at least three districts along the Oregon coast. This was due to the flooding and road blockages caused by the heavy rainfall.

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TempRecordBreaker December 7, 2023 - 8:11 am

Record temps in Dec?! Walla Walla as warm as Florida? Seattle breakin’ records too! Weather’s gone wild!

RoadWarrior December 7, 2023 - 8:26 am

Roads floodin’, trails closin’, it’s a mess! Oregon’s got troubles too. Drive safe, folks!

WeatherWatcher94 December 7, 2023 - 3:04 pm

whoa, this atmo river’s a big deal! floodin’ & warm temps makin’ trouble. schools closed, trails damaged, trains not runnin’. crazy stuff happenin’!

RainfallRecordChaser December 7, 2023 - 9:08 pm

Forks is rainiest, they say! They broke records with 4.7 inches! More than Vegas in a year! Hoquiam, Seattle, they broke records too.

TrainEnthusiast23 December 7, 2023 - 11:41 pm

Amtrak’s in trouble, y’all! Landslide causin’ big delays. Hope they fix it soon.


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