Snow falls for New Year’s around Whatcom County; high winds forecast

Snow covers the branches of fir trees in Sudden Valley on New Year’s morning.
Snow covers the branches of fir trees in Sudden Valley on New Year’s morning. rmittendorf@bhamherald.com

Whatcom County residents awoke to a rose-gold sunrise shining on snow Sunday morning, the first day of 2017, as up to 6 inches of white fell overnight in the lowlands.

Accumulations ranged from a mere dusting in downtown Bellingham to at least 6 inches near Alger, according to observations and reader responses on The Bellingham Herald’s Facebook page. Temperatures hovered in the mid-30s.

“East of Blaine, about 4 inches on top of the ice pellets that fell first. Haven’t driven, but shoveling is a chore. (It’s) pretty though,” wrote Brenda Bowles.

In Sudden Valley, 2 to 4 inches of snow fell in various locations overnight Saturday. Main county roads such as Lake Whatcom Boulevard and Lake Louise roads were plowed and passable, but a bit slushy and slippery in spots.

Nooksack saw 2 inches; Lynden, 2.5 inches; and Sumas, 3 inches.

At the Mt. Baker Ski Area, some 8 inches of light powder fell overnight. The temperature was 20 degrees with light snow at 5 a.m. Sunday.

In the wilderness backcounty, the avalanche danger remained considerable above the treeline, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center. Avalanche danger was moderate at and below the treeline.

Mount Baker Highway was bare and wet with snow and ice in places Sunday, according to the state Department of Transportation. Traction tires were advised.

Roads across most of downtown Bellingham were free of snow for the most part. Neighborhoods at higher elevations, such as Puget and Whatcom Falls, saw about an inch of dry, powdery snow. City streets were mostly dry and clear, with a few streets that were slushy and slippery.

A few car wrecks were reported, including a single-vehicle rollover on Hannegan near Kelly roads, but there were no serious injuries. A tree blocked one lane of northbound Interstate 5 for a few hours overnight near the Samish Way ramps at milepost 248, and a tree was reported blocking one lane of the Mount Baker Highway near Deming Road about 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

Meanwhile, winds began to pick up mid-morning – the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for western Whatcom County, western Skagit County and the San Juan Islands through 4 a.m. Monday. North winds are expected to increase from 20 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph.

“The strong winds combined with temperatures in the lower to mid-30s will make for wind chill readings in the teens and lower 20s. Winds this strong can also snap tree limbs,” the weather service said in a statement posted on its Bellingham area page. A gale warning was issued for Salish Sea waters.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty