First snowfall brings fun for kids, headache for drivers

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDDecember 20, 2013 

Whatcom County students got a day's head start on their winter break Friday, Dec. 20, but a heavy morning snowfall proved to be no holiday for commuters.

The county's lowlands received up to 4 inches of snow in some places, although most areas got 1 to 3 inches, said National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg.

Snow and ice made Interstate 5 and county roads especially slippery, sending cars into ditches and causing several crashes throughout the day.

Bellingham Public Works had four plows doing snow and ice removal on the streets since midnight, with a focus on main roads and bus routes, said assistant director of operations Eric Johnston. He hadn't heard of a lot of issues for drivers in the city, but said outlying areas with less traffic, hilly spots and curvy roads could still cause trouble.

Roads were more treacherous outside of Bellingham, where there were several reports of rollover crashes and cars in ditches throughout the county.

At least two cars went into a ditch near the corner of East Pole and Everson-Goshen roads, where the road was reportedly slick. An SUV rolled onto its top while going through the roundabout at Guide Meridian and Ten Mile Road just before 11 a.m. A truck rolled into a ditch in the 2100 block of Mount Baker Highway just before 1 p.m., around the same time as minor crashes at Kline and Hannegan roads.

Drivers on the freeway didn't fair any better. A crash partially blocked a southbound lane of I-5 north of Birch Bay-Lynden Road at 9 a.m. Just before 11 a.m., a truck rolled over into the median near Ferndale's Main Street exit.

About noon, travel started getting dicey on I-5 south of Bellingham. A crash briefly blocked the southbound off ramp to Lake Samish Road, and another crash partially blocked a southbound lane near Bow Hill Road. At about 12:30 p.m., a third crash was blocking the center southbound lane north of the Cook Road exit.

Fortunately for students and their families, they didn't have to brave the messy roads to get to school. Early Friday, classes were canceled for students in the Bellingham, Ferndale, Lynden, Meridian, Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley districts, as well as several private schools. Blaine schools were already scheduled to have the day off, due to the district's winter break schedule.

Winter break for most districts was scheduled to start Monday, Dec. 23, with schools back in session Monday, Jan. 6.

The warm air that was expected to melt away the snow by Friday evening took its time moving into the area, so snow stuck around longer than expected. Temperatures were expected to warm up gradually Friday evening, and over the weekend temperatures are expected to be closer to normal, with highs in the mid-40s and lows in the upper 30s to low 40s.

Clouds and rain are likely through Monday, and a dry, cloudy day is forecasted for Christmas.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com. Read her School Days blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/schools or follow her on Twitter at @bhamschools.

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