Lighter dose of snow expected this weekend in Whatcom County

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 27, 2014 

Plows and sanders are on standby throughout Whatcom County, as lowland snow looms in the forecast for the second weekend in a row.

A mix of rain and snow could start early Saturday morning, as the forecast calls for the snow level to dip to 500 feet and then drop to around sea level at night when temperatures hover around freezing, National Weather Service meteorologist Jay Neher said.

On Sunday, there is a 60 percent chance for snow during the day, with highs in the mid- to upper 30s. But it shouldn't be round two of the heavy snowfall the county got last weekend.

"There might be some snow, but I don't think it'll be the same kind of amounts," Neher said.

With temperatures warming up Sunday night, the snow should turn to rain by the time the workweek resumes, which should be a relief for drivers on their Monday morning commute.

"The question is always timing, when will it turn to rain," Neher said. "Definitely by Monday it's rain."

Whatcom County Public Works crews are ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store this time. The county usually has nine vehicles ready for snow and ice, most of which don't normally have plows attached. After last weekend's dumping of snow, though, the county has about a dozen trucks ready with plows on the front and sanders on the back.

"The beauty of this particular event is it's tailing the last one," said Rob Ney, assistant superintendent of maintenance and operations for Whatcom County Public Works. "We haven't decommissioned our equipment, so we're ready and prepared."

In many areas, snow was still piled high along the roadside Thursday, and Whatcom County crews were out working to plow those piles farther from the road to create wider driving lanes.

With 20 to 35 mph winds and gusts of up to 50 mph in the forecast for Friday night and winds continuing on Saturday, officials are hoping that the blustery conditions and snow don't combine to make a mess on the roads. Out in the county, strong winds can create drifts that pile up and make roads difficult to pass, especially if the drifts freeze over.

"My hope is that the moisture and wind don't collide," Ney said. "If one happens before the other, it'll be easier for us to fight."

Winds also can knock down branches and trees weighed down with snow. Those downed branches and trees can knock out power and block roads, which was part of the challenge for public works during the last storm.

"That was as much of an effort as snow removal," said Eric Johnston, assistant director of operations for Bellingham Public Works. "It was a big issue for us."

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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