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Atmospheric river turns old lake bed back into a lake in Canada
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Atmospheric river turns old lake bed back into a lake in Canada

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Highway 1 in Abbotsford, British Columbia, was submerged under 2-foot-deep floodwaters on Nov. 17, in the aftermath of an atmospheric river that brought excessive rainfall to the area.

(CNN) — Another atmospheric river will be streaming into western Washington and parts of British Columbia, Canada, this week.

While back-to-back-to-back systems for the region seem a bit like a broken record lately, the phenomenon is truly significant.

Rivers in the sky have led to landslides blocking roads, rivers inundating towns and, in one case, returning an old lake bed back into a lake.

British Columbia typically sees atmospheric river events in the month of November, just as the Pacific Northwest does. The problem for both regions this year has been the consistency of the systems, with no breaks for drying in between.

Canada Flooding

Flooded farms are seen in this aerial photo in Sumas Prairie, Abbotsford, British Columbia, on Nov. 22, 2021.

"The first atmospheric river event hit us hard on November 13 to 16, and it dumped a lot, 150-300 mm (roughly 6-11 inches), of precipitation in less than 48 hours," said Johnson Zhong, a meteorologist for Environment Canada.

There has also been rain on top of fresh snow, which has exacerbated flooding.

"There was up to 30-50 cm (1-1.5 feet) of fresh snow at 1500-2500 meters (5,000-8,000 feet) high," he observed. "One of our atmospheric river events rained much higher than 2500 meters, so that rain melted the snow and helped create the flooding."

One of the areas seeing the greatest amount of flooding was the Sumas area, about 50 miles east of Vancouver.

"One hundred years ago there was a Sumas lake. Then they pumped the water out to make good farmland. It has been farmland for the last 100 years, and now it's a lake again," Zhong explained.

The unprecedented amount of rain has created major flooding, washing out bridges and roads, completely cutting off many other small Canadian towns to the rest of the world.

Merritt, British Columbia, is one of those towns.

"Merritt is a town of 7,000 people and is totally flooded," Zhong said. "That town is in an area that doesn't get a lot of rain. But with the combination of rain and snowmelt, the entire town flooded. The water and sewage system went down, and the entire town had to be evacuated."

Mudslides and landslides are a major concern for both British Columbia and Washington.

"Persistent rainfall over the last few weeks has dramatically increased soil moisture to high levels across western Washington," the National Weather Service office in Seattle reported. "Heavy rainfall of an additional 1 to 3 inches in the mountains and up to 1.5 inches in the lowlands has fallen over the last 24 hours. Therefore, the increased threat of landslides will continue through today despite the heaviest rainfall coming to an end."

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