Saturday’s rain set record; landslide, avalanche danger elsewhere

Western Washington University students Monica Serey, left, and Victoria Mao walk through the rain during a storm in Bellingham on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Western Washington University students Monica Serey, left, and Victoria Mao walk through the rain during a storm in Bellingham on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Saturday’s seemingly incessant downpour set a Nov. 26 record for Bellingham, dumping 1.67 inches of rain and breaking the daily mark of 1.12 inches set in 1963.

Total rainfall for the month rose to 7.52 inches as measured through midnight Saturday, said meteorologist Josh Smith at the National Weather Service in Seattle. Normal rainfall for the month is 5.8 inches.

“We’re also looking at accumulations of up to 11 inches (of snow) at Mount Baker through (Monday) morning,” Smith said.

Northwest Avalanche Center warns of considerable avalanche danger above the treeline on the west slopes of the North Cascades, which includes Whatcom County. The considerable danger level is between moderate and high, and indicates dangerous avalanche conditions. Backcountry travelers are urged to make “careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making.” Below the treeline, avalanche conditions are described as moderate.

In the lowlands, Whatcom County rivers and creeks are running high, although they remain below flood stage and levels were easing Sunday, according to U.S. Geological Survey measuring stations. For the Nooksack River at North Cedarville, the gage height was 142.28 feet at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, with flood stage at 146.5 feet. For the Nooksack River at Ferndale, the gage height was 12.8 feet, with flood stage at 19 feet.

Whatcom County can expect continued wet and chilly weather for the week ahead as late November temperatures turn more seasonable, Smith said. Expect daytime highs in the mid- to upper 40s and overnight in the low 40s, with rain or showers forecast each day through Saturday. Earlier this month, daytime temperatures were running an average 10 degrees above normal. High temperature records fell three times in one week as the mercury soared above 60 degrees.

Rain, occasionally heavy, accompanied several wet and windy storms blew across Western Washington last week. That included a blustery Thanksgiving that saw sustained winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts mostly in the 40-mph range – with one as high as 52 mph. Little damage was reported, and a few minor localized power outages.

Steady rain over the past few days has soaked the ground, leading to an increased threat of landslides across the region, the National Weather Service said in a special weather statement issued Saturday.

Several car wrecks were reported over the weekend, including one about 6:15 p.m. Saturday on Interstate 5 north of Bakerview Road that brought traffic to a near standstill for about an hour and one about 7:30 p.m. Saturday that knocked out power to a handful of customers in the Acme area.

Snow level in the mountains remains about 2,500 feet. Mt. Baker Ski Area was reporting that 18 inches of snow fell in the 48 hours before 5:15 a.m. Sunday. For skiers and snowboarders, there was a 61-inch base at Heather Meadows, and 83 inches at Pan Dome. The ski area was at full operation from both base areas.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty