The worst of two storms is set to hit Whatcom County on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 15, after the first left officials chasing downed power lines and fixing outages Friday.
The first brisk storm began howling Thursday night, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers and backing up traffic on some major streets. Forecasters continued to watch a stronger and potentially more destructive blast expected this weekend.
A squall that blew through Whatcom County on Friday morning carried wind gusts of up to 63 mph at Bellingham International Airport about 1:45 p.m., said Logan Johnson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service station in Seattle. That wind, he said, would carry well into the evening and could affect drivers on Interstate 5.
More than 14,000 Puget Sound Energy customers were without electricity as of about 3 p.m. Friday in scattered areas of Whatcom County, said Akiko Oda, a PSE spokeswoman.
A power outage in the neighborhood near Bellis Fair shopping mall darkened traffic lights on Meridian Street, causing a backup from Telegraph Road to Squalicum Parkway.
There was an unconfirmed report that a tree hit power lines and cut power to Sumas Elementary School. Power was out in downtown areas of Everson and Nooksack for about an hour Friday morning. Power also was out briefly at Sumas Elementary, Nooksack Elementary and Nooksack Middle schools, but classes started at 9 a.m. Friday as usual.
Overnight Thursday, sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph tore branches loose, toppled a few trees and scattered debris over Whatcom County roads. Gusts reached as high as 52 mph, recorded at 7:53 a.m. Friday at Bellingham International Airport.
Some 1.27 inches of rain fell late Thursday, according to measurements taken at 4:53 a.m. Friday. Still, sections of the Nooksack River were no longer at risk of flooding, Johnson said just before 4 p.m. Friday.
Reports to emergency dispatchers and public works crews included a few downed trees, arcing power lines, and an overflowing roof drain that required cleanup at Western Washington University. A house fire was reported overnight south of Everson.
The county public works department listed closures or restrictions on 18 roads as of about 4:15 p.m. Friday.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s storm still looms as a potentially destructive event, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Seattle.
High wind and heavy rain are expected as a monster low-pressure system spun off Typhoon Songda roars in from the western Pacific. A high-wind watch is in effect from 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, through 2 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. Those winds, Johnson said, could be as strong as 70 mph Saturday evening.
“It still looks like it’s going to be bad for everybody,” Burg said. “It’s still quite possible that it could be a major windstorm, with the possibility of widespread power outages and structural damage. There’s also going to be a lot of rainfall.”
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