BELLINGHAM - The forecast through Thanksgiving weekend in the lowlands of Whatcom County is shaping up to be a lot of the same: rain with a chance of heavy rain.
It's good news for skiers, but gloomy news for just about everyone else.
Minor flooding is expected throughout the county near creeks and in urban storm drains. Saturated soil could cause landslides on bluffs and hillsides, according to the National Weather Service.
Mudlisdes halted passenger trains between Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle Monday, Nov. 19, and led to a 48-hour moratorium on railroad traffic, Amtrak Cascades tweeted.
As of Monday afternoon, the Nooksack river was expected to crest a few feet short of its minor flood stage at the bridge near Nugents Corner. In Ferndale, the river is forecasted to double in depth - from about 8 feet on Sunday to 16 feet by Tuesday - but should still come up about 3 feet short of even minor flooding in the city, according to the NWS.
Already this week, drivers have struggled with big puddles and flooded intersections throughout Whatcom County. A Bellingham school bus, for example, slid off a slick stretch of Lake Whatcom Boulevard and crashed into a small ditch Monday. No one was hurt, said school district spokeswoman Tanya Rowe. The lone student aboard was transferred to another vehicle to get to morning classes.
The North Cascades Highway closed at noon Monday, after the mountains got blasted with snow.
About an inch of snow per hour was falling along the winding scenic highway in the early morning hours Monday, leading crews to think it would shut down sometime in the evening, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Dustin Terpening.
But by 10 a.m., the flurries picked up the pace, dumping 4 1/2 inches on the highway in 90 minutes. Three avalanches were reported along Highway 20.
Once this storm passes through, crews will determine if it's safe enough to reopen the highway, Terpening said. On average, winter weather closes the highway for about half of each year.
Terpening guffawed when asked if the highway might reopen for Thanksgiving travelers.
"With the weather, you never know," he said.
Snow levels should hover between 4,000 and 5,000 feet for the next 24 hours, said Jay Neher, a meteorologist at the NWS station in Seattle.
The highway's highest pass is at nearly 5,500 feet. It's closed from the Diablo gate at milepost 134 to the Silver Star gate at milepost 171.