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Are you cold yet, Whatcom County? Temps will stay low, but snow not expected to last

Bundle up, Whatcom County – it’s going to be cold for a while. Whether this snow will stick around is another story.

The area’s first lowland snow of the year fell Friday morning, and the county collected half an inch to 3 inches, depending on location, said Allen Kam, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Seattle. And that data accounted only for the morning shower; numbers from Friday afternoon’s snowfall hadn’t yet been tallied Friday evening.

Temperatures on Friday stayed in the high 20s to low 30s, according to weather service data.

The early-morning snowfall led to cancellations in Blaine, Ferndale and Lummi Nation school districts Friday, as well as Northwest Indian College.

Bellingham students already had the day off for a planned teacher workday. Among private schools, Assumption Catholic School, St. Paul’s Academy and Whatcom Hill Waldorf School were closed.

The City of Bellingham sent four trucks through town to plow roads and spread a combination of salt and sand, said Eric Johnston, assistant director of the city’s Public Works Department. Since 2 a.m. Friday, city crews have laid 300 yards of salt and sand and were winding down about 3 p.m., Johnston added. Crews would stay on shift to keep an eye on things over the weekend.

Bellingham residents can report slick areas on city roads by calling the Public Works Department at 360-778-7800.

In unincorporated county areas, workers were doing the same, using 14 trucks with sanders and plows to spread 500 yards of salt and sand since 4 a.m. Friday, said Jeff Gollen, superintendent of maintenance and operations for the county’s Public Works Department.

City officials advise residents to clear sidewalks abutting your property and stay home if you don’t need to be out.

More showers coming

The initial snow showers prompted the weather service to issue a winter weather advisory for the county until 4 a.m. Saturday, warning of precipitation into Saturday morning. But just what kind of precipitation – whether snow, rain, or a mixture of both – was hard to say.

“What we’re expecting is temperatures will warm a little bit ... so for (Whatcom County), there’s not as much to worry about for snow showers, but it’ll be close,” Kam said. “With the strengths of showers coming in, sometimes the stronger showers can punch the surface and you end up with snow that melts off quickly.”

Residents along the shore should expect freezing rain, Kam said.

Those temperatures come courtesy of a cold-air outflow from the Fraser River Valley in British Columbia. As the snow gives way to rain amid freezing temperatures, expect slick roads in the coming days, said Kirby Cook, a science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Seattle.

“The screaming message is folks need to stay informed as we head into that outflow Monday,” he said, referring to additional cold air expected to come out of the Fraser River Valley.

As for next week, expect it to look a lot like this last one, Cook said – temperatures in the 20s, but without the rain and snow.

“Really, in a lot of ways,” he said, “it’s kind of deja vu.”

Senior Editor Jim Donaldson contributed to this article.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

Tips for drivers

▪  Clear your windshield and all vehicle windows before driving.

▪  Drive only when you really need to.

▪  Use slower speeds and accelerate more slowly.

▪  Allow extra time to reach your destination.

▪  Use your headlights (even if you can see well, lights help other drivers see you).

▪  Leave extra room between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Check the Washington State Department of Transportation’s winter driving page at wsdot.com/winter/.

Heating safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association

▪ Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

▪ Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

▪ Never use your oven to heat your home.

▪ Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

▪ Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

▪ Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

▪ Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.

▪ Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

▪ Test smoke alarms at least once a month.

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