Driving treacherous in north Whatcom County, icy roads expected Tuesday morning

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 24, 2014 

Snow Folo PAD

Truck drivers walk to their truck after putting on chains in a blinding snowstorm on the Badger Road north of Lynden, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. The road was closed to more traffic due to the conditions.

PHILIP A. DWYER — The Bellingham Herald

East Badger Road was closed for about two hours from Guide Meridian to Highway 9 Monday, Feb. 24 as swirling winds caused white-out conditions, according to the Washington Department of Transportation.

Dot reopened the road at 2 p.m. but cautioned drivers to prepare for a difficult drive and watch for snow plow trucks.

Lynden Fire Department Chief Gary Baar said his crews are taking alternate routes to maintain emergency service to those around Badger Road.

Tow trucks also were busy Monday morning pulling cars out of ditches from Sudden Valley to the U.S.-Canada border, along major routes like Guide Meridian and arterial streets as well.

Road conditions in Bellingham, however, are improving as temperatures warm up. Michael Olinger, maintenance superintendent for Bellingham Public Works, said the city has 6 sanders and 6 snow plows on the roads right now.

"Just about everyone is out there," Olinger said.

Olinger said the city is prepared for extra snow and freezing rain that is in the forecast and will start working on the non-arterial roads shortly.

City employees are expected to come to work Monday in spite of the snow. All city services will be running as regularly scheduled.

Public Works crews worked over the weekend de-icing and sanding the atrial roads, according to the City of Bellingham's website, which makes road conditions within the city good.

Bellingham Police Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said most of the car accidents are happening north of the city, since weather conditions there are still a little worse.

"We just have to manage it right now," Vander Yacht said. "The snow should pass soon."

No serious accidents have been reported Monday, Vander Yacht said.

The Washington Department of Transportation is not worried as much about ice or slush as they are tree branches.

"The roads are great, all things considered," Department spokesman Dave Chesson said. "It's the trees branches that snap under the weight of the snow."

The department reported three fallen trees on Highway 9 from milepost 70 to 73, at least one of which blocked both lanes. The northbound lane of Old Fairhaven Parkway near the southern border of Whatcom County, according to the department.

Whatcom County Public Works have received several reports of downed tree branches, which block roads and disrupt power lines. When it disrupts a power line, public works can't remove it until Puget Sound Energy gets there, said Any Bowler, Whatcom County Public works assistant superintendent. This can take anywhere from 2-8 hours, Bowler said.

Ray Lane of Puget Sound Energy confirmed that it can be difficult for PSE trucks to even get to the location of a downed tree, as the road conditions still delay arrival. Some PSE trucks have been blocked by downed tree branches while trying to get to the site of a different downed tree branch.

BUS

Whatcom Transportation Authority tweeted Monday morning that its buses are equipped with chains, which can cause delays.

Bus routes 401 and 512 were delayed most of the morning, according to WTA. 27 Ferndale is still on detour routes as of 9:40 a.m. All other routes will run as scheduled.

Route 512 was delayed around 8:30 a.m. after a tree fell on Lake Whatcom Boulevard, closing the road entirely, WTA tweeted Monday.

27 Ferndale is not travelling on Church Road, according to WTA's twitter.

For more information, call 360-676-7433.

CAR

Most roads around Whatcom County remain treacherous. And drivers should remember that more snow is expected, so those that commute this morning might be in for a lot more snow on the way home.

Interstate 5 was being kept clear, though conditions were slippery.

Guide Meridian was also being cleared regularly, though conditions there appeared slick as well.

The city of Bellingham spent a lot of the weekend de-icing and sanding main roads, so they reported conditions on those were mostly clear as of 5:30 a.m. But that was before a combination of snow and ice began falling again.

City workers are expected to report to work Monday and city services are running as scheduled.

Whatcom County also focuses on main routes for sanding and clearing efforts.

Still, drivers should expect a lot of compact snow and ice. And those roads not treated can be difficult to pass.

As always in this weather, officials advise avoiding driving until most of the roads improve, which likely won't be until Tuesday.

AIRPORT

At least one early-morning flight Monday out of Bellingham International Airport was canceled, but airlines were listing other flights as scheduled to depart on time.

Travelers, or those meeting arriving flights, should check regularly as flights could be delayed or canceled as conditions change.

CHECK TRAFFIC CAMS

We've collected a number of Washington Department of Transportation traffic cam images on one page, at bellinghamherald.com/traffic-cams.

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