Whatcom County officials are asking people in northwest Whatcom County to shelter in place as a severe ice storm struck the region Friday afternoon.
“We need to keep people off the roads up there. It’s not safe to travel,” said John Gargett, deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.
Freezing rain began falling after noon Friday, toppling trees and branches, knocking down power lines, and causing at least one house fire, according to emergency officials.
Roads are slick with ice and blocked by fallen trees and limbs, Gargett said.
He said the storm was especially severe north of Mount Baker Highway and east of Guide Meridian, and emergency responders are overwhelmed with the number of calls and responses.
Nearly 12,000 homes and businesses were without power about 6:30 p.m. in the Lynden, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas areas of northern Whatcom County, according to the Puget Sound Energy online outage map.
Trooper Heather Axtman with the Washington State Patrol said multiple vehicles have struck debris in roadways across the county.
As of 5:45 p.m., the following areas had debris in the roadway causing closures, blockages and power outages:
▪ Power lines are down at Guide Meridian and Badger Road.
▪ Trees are down and blocking the left lanes of Northbound and Southbound Interstate 5 at milepost 270 near Birch Bay Lynden Road.
▪ Trees are down and blocking Eastbound and Westbound state Route 548 in Kickerville.
▪ Powerlines are down at state Road 546 and Van Buren Road.
▪ At state Route 9 at milepost 96 power is out and lines are dangling due to icy conditions.
▪ State Route 547 and Reese Hill Road are extremely icy.