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High winds, power outages persist in north Whatcom County

Most of the power outages were brief and limited to no more than a few hundred customers at a time.
Most of the power outages were brief and limited to no more than a few hundred customers at a time. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Biting cold northeast winds, gusting at times as high as 70 mph, caused scattered electrical outages across northwest Whatcom County from Tuesday into early Wednesday as the notorious “Fraser outflow” buffeted the flatlands north and west of Bellingham.

Most of the power outages were brief and limited to no more than a few hundred customers at a time. One outage about 11 p.m. Tuesday near Everson affected 1,130 customers. Most outages were blamed on equipment failure or fallen trees and tree limbs, according to Puget Sound Energy’s online outage map.

“We kept power here in Custer, but holy cow, those gusts of wind kept me awake all night,” said Mandi Graves on The Bellingham Herald’s page on Facebook.

At 11 p.m. Tuesday, more than 2,000 PSE customers were without power across Whatcom County as trees bent, houses shook and windows rattled. A high-wind warning from the National Weather Service in Seattle expired 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Four miles north of Maple Falls, there were gusts up to 60 (mph), and Lummi Island, 70 (mph).

Johnny Burg, National Weather Service

Several reports of downed wires and fallen trees and tree limbs were heard over police and fire radios as emergency crews were kept busy overnight Tuesday. No major incidents were reported.

By 9 a.m. Wednesday, fewer than 200 PSE customers remained without electricity across Whatcom County, mostly on Lummi Island, Lummi Peninsula and areas north of Bellingham.

“We had some good linemen out there ready to go,” said Austin Melhart, PSE spokesman.

Hardest-hit areas were Lummi Peninsula and the coast north to Canada – plus inland communities of Ferndale, Everson, Nooksack, Lynden and Sumas – which bore the brunt of winds racing south from the Fraser River Valley in British Columbia, part of a winter weather pattern that has persisted for several weeks. With the wind come unseasonably cold temperatures and dry air, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds picked up around 3 a.m. Tuesday, rising from a steady 15 mph with gusts of 25 mph to a peak of sustained 37-mph winds and gusts to 53 mph at 1:53 p.m. Tuesday. Winds persisted into Wednesday morning at a steady 20 to 30 mph, with gusts 45 mph or stronger as measured at Bellingham International Airport.

Elsewhere across Whatcom County, the weather service uses trained spotters to report changing conditions that may vary from readings at an official NOAA weather station such as the airport, said Johnny Burg, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Seattle office.

“We had a report near Lynden of sustained winds at 41 mph,” Burg said. “Four miles north of Maple Falls, there were gusts up to 60 (mph), and Lummi Island, 70 (mph),” Burg said.

Air temperature was 34 degrees at 1:53 p.m. Tuesday, with a wind-chill factor of 15 degrees, according to measurements at the airport. At 12:53 a.m. Wednesday, the temperature was 24 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of 6.

Burg offered some hope for Northwest Washington residents who are tired of the cold: A warming trend will start Friday as rain returns and temperatures gradually rise into the high 40s by early next week.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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