After a gray and chilly Saturday, weather for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day is shaping up as clear and slightly warmer.
Sunny skies and warmer temperatures will be a welcome change for many Whatcom County residents, especially those in the northwest part of the county who endured a severe ice storm Friday afternoon that toppled trees and power lines, made roads slick, knocked out power to thousands of homes and business – and caused at least one house fire.
But Saturday’s forecast calls for clouds and a 40 percent chance of showers with a high near 40 degrees, according to the most recent forecast from the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Sunny skies and temperatures around 40 degrees are likely for New Year’s events in Birch Bay, Bellingham and other places around Whatcom County. Overnight lows will be around 30.
Some clouds are expected Monday night, but skywatchers may still have a chance to see the Wolf Moon, the second – and the largest – of three supermoons this winter. Supermoons occur when the full moon is closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit, making it appear up to 30 percent brighter and 14 percent larger.
A Wolf Moon gets its name from wolves howling near Native American villages in January, according to the Farmer’s Almanac. But others assert that the various names for full moons originated in Anglo-Saxon culture, according to timeanddate.com.
New Year’s events
Several local celebrations aim to ring in 2018 by bringing residents together.
Marking New Year’s Eve in Birch Bay is the annual Ring of Hope and Fire as revelers bring road flares to light at 7 p.m. Sunday along the waterfront in the 7900 bock of Birch Bay Drive. Free flares (one per family) will be available while they last at the Birch Bay Visitors Center, 7900 Birch Bay Drive, starting at 5:30 p.m.
In Birch Bay on Monday, the annual Polar Bear Plunge is at noon along the waterfront in the 7900 bock of Birch Bay Drive.
It’s free, and participants are asked to register online or at the event so organizers can plan the right amount of beverages and event certificates.
Awards will be given for costumes, including best child, most unique, best individual and best group. Costume judging is at 11:30 a.m.
In Bellingham, the annual Resolution Walk and Polar Dip are Monday at Lake Padden Park. A 2.6-mile run/walk counterclockwise around the lake starts at 11 a.m. from the beachfront bathhouse. The dash into frigid Lake Padden is at noon.
Both events are free and no registration is required.
A late fall bloom of toxic blue-green algae on the north side of Lake Padden had prompted Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department officials to consider cancellation of the popular annual event, which draws several hundred participants.
But Steve Janiszewski, park operations manager, said recent rain and cold weather have helped kill the algae and carry it away from the surface.
“The Padden Polar Dip is a ‘go’ at this point,” Janiszewski said Friday. “There’s no algae, no visible algae on the lake.”
Janiszewski said another check would be made Sunday, but he was confident the swimming area would remain safe.
Water temperature has been in the mid-30s, said Lance Romo, a parks department recreation coordinator. Algae requires warmer temperatures and sunlight to flourish.
Snow in the mountains
For those headed into the North Cascades, heavy snow was forecast overnight Friday, turning to snow showers on Saturday. Clear skies were expected Sunday and Monday, with temperatures in the low 30s.
Backcountry travelers should be aware that the avalanche danger is high from the treeline and above on both the east and west slopes of the North Cascades.
Mt. Baker Ski Area is expecting additional snow through Saturday afternoon, according to its online snow report.