In the wake of floods, what’s next for salmon?

High Country News

Standing outside his house in Blanchard, Washington, water up to his thighs, Kevin Morse watched in awe as a few salmon — usually found in a nearby creek — swam across his driveway. His son spotted several more later that night while ferrying friends across the property in a canoe.

Morse is just one of thousands of people across western Washington and British Columbia who experienced severe flooding in mid-November. A potent atmospheric river storm — a long, narrow corridor of tropical water vapor that, when forced upward by obstacles like mountain ranges, condenses and sheds moisture — dumped massive amounts of rainfall, sometimes up to half an inch an hour, on the region. Bellingham, Washington, received more rain between Nov. 14 and 15 than it usually does in the entire month. Rivers like the Skagit and Nooksack spilled over their banks, and salmon, like the ones Morse saw on his driveway, were washed out of their streams. Mudslides wiped out roadways, and three out of every four homes in Sumas, Washington, were damaged by floodwaters. At least five people died.

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