All public schools and many private schools across western Whatcom County were closed Tuesday as residents continued to dig out from a strong winter storm that coated trees and power lines with ice and has dumped between 6 inches and 2 feet of snow across the lowlands since Saturday.
Western Washington University was open Tuesday, and all indications are it’s going to be open Wednesday. Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College and Northwest Indian College were closed for a second straight day, school officials said on their websites – there was no information as of early Tuesday evening whether or not there will be classes Wednesday.
Classes for Tuesday were canceled at schools in the Bellingham, Blaine, Ferndale, Lynden, Lynden Christian, Nooksack Valley, Mount Baker and Meridian districts. Most school activities were canceled or rescheduled. Lummi Nation School and other tribal school programs were canceled for Tuesday.
Wednesday classes for schools in the Bellingham, Nooksack Valley, Meridian, Lynden, Ferndale, and Mount Baker districts were canceled Tuesday. Lynden Christian, Whatcom Discovery Center, and Assumption Catholic School also will not have classes Wednesday.
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“There’s more snow than I’ve ever seen and I’m 88 and lived here all my life,” said Jack Whitman of Lynden. “Well, more snow than the last 30 or 40 years at least.”
Lynden and other areas north of Bellingham received more snow than the rest of lowland Whatcom County, including some 6 to 10 inches overnight Monday and Tuesday, observers said. Strong northeast winds – which caused blowing and drifting snow – have complicated snow removal efforts.
Bellingham International Airport opened its runways at 8:30 a.m. after being closed for several hours because of heavy snow and ice, said Sunil Harman, director of aviation.
The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter Tuesday night. “The request comes from Whatcom Unified Emergency Management in response to our recent stretch of winter weather and anticipated prolonged power outages in the area,” according to a news release. Officials said the shelter, in the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, 8251 Kendall Road in Maple Falls, will stay open “as long as it is needed.”
Fewer than 500 Puget Sound Energy customers in Whatcom County were without electricity at 4 p.m. Tuesday, down from the more than 7,000 customers whose power was out in the wake of Saturday afternoon’s freezing rain and ice storm, followed by heavy snowfall.
Most of those who remained without power Tuesday morning were some 700 customers in the Acme, Mosquito Lake Road and Glacier areas whose power has been out since Sunday.
PSE was staging crews in Whatcom County in response to numerous weather-related power outages, according to Whatcom Unified Emergency Management, a combined city-county agency.
Rain is likely by Wednesday evening and temperatures will begin to rise, according to the National Weather Service. Rain was forecast for Thursday, with a high near 50 degrees.
“It’s going to stay a little colder, but the significant snowfall should be over,” said meteorologist Gary Schneider at the National Weather Service office in Seattle. Flooding could become a concern Thursday with such a quick thaw, Schneider said.
He said the strong northeast winds would continue Wednesday north of Bellingham. More snow is possible Wednesday night, he said.
“It’ll start out as snow, but then it’ll change to rain Wednesday night,” Schneider said. No significant new snow accumulation was expected, however, he added.
Many roads in Whatcom County were covered in compact snow and ice – although city, county and state road crews have worked around the clock to keep main roads passable. Mount Baker Highway remained closed Tuesday morning east of Glacier because of about 100 fallen trees over a 10-mile stretch, a Washington State Department of Transportation official said.
“Because of the persistent winds, and the 6 to 10 inches of new snow, none of our crews were able to go in” and assess the situation, said WSDOT communications official Ally Barrera. “They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them.”
Mt. Baker Ski Area posted on its website that it would be closed for a third straight day Wednesday – and possibly Thursday – because of the fallen trees along the Mount Baker Highway. Some 4 feet of snow has fallen there since Friday.
In the North Cascades backcountry, avalanche conditions remain at the considerable level above and below the treeline for the western slopes north of the Skagit River to the U.S.-Canada border.