After a week of snowfall and freezing temperatures, a countywide thaw raised concerns of landslides, flooding, avalanches and wind, officials said.
The National Weather Service issued a series of warnings amid the melting ice and snow, including a flood watch until 10 p.m. Friday for all of Whatcom County and special weather statement warning of landslides due to melting snow.
The following school districts, as of 6:15 p.m. Thursday, said they would cancel Friday classes:
▪ Mount Baker
▪ Nooksack Valley
▪ (Bellingham schools will also not have class Friday for a scheduled teacher workday)
Blaine schools will have classes Friday, according to its website.
The closures Friday will mark an entire week of canceled classes for those districts. All classes for K-12 public schools in Whatcom County were closed from Monday to Thursday, as were most private schools.
Since some families rely on school meals to keep their children fed, Bellingham Public Schools will provide free lunches to all children 18 and under, the district said in an email. The lunches, the district added, are available to all children, regardless of what district they attend.
Those in need of lunches can get them at these Bellingham locations on Friday between noon and 1 p.m.:
▪ Shuksan Middle School, 2717 Alderwood Ave.
▪ Regency Park Apartments, 2050 Fraser St.
▪ Sterling Meadows, 512 Sterling Dr.
▪ Meadow Wood Townhomes, 939 Mahogany Ave.
▪ Cascade Meadows, 455 Westerly Road
▪ Villa Santa Fe Apartments, 804 W. Bakerview Road
▪ Samish Way Mobile Home Park
The school district served around 500 meals Thursday, said Jackie Brawley, a district spokeswoman.
Western Washington University and Whatcom Community, Bellingham Technical and Northwest Indian colleges all canceled classes Thursday. The colleges had not issued alerts early evening Thursday about Friday classes.
Outages and assistance
More than 9,000 Puget Sound Energy customers in Whatcom County were without electricity as of 11 a.m. Thursday, mostly in the Ferndale, Lynden, Sumas, Glacier, Kendall and Maple Falls areas, said John Gargett, deputy director of emergency management with the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office. Falling trees and limbs were cited for most of the outages.
Outages can be reported through PSE’s mobile app or by calling 1-888-225-5773.
Bellingham Food Bank said regular distribution is planned from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the Bellingham Food Bank, 1824 Ellis St. Clients are urged to go online at bellinghamfoodbank.org or call 676-0392 for updates.
The Red Cross is operating an emergency shelter for hot food and a place to sleep at the East Valley Regional Center, 8251 Kendall Road in Maple Falls.
Conditions early Thursday meant slick, dangerous roads throughout the county.
“Lynden is a solid sheet of ice. Do not go out. Cars are even frozen shut. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Maleah Smith said on social media Thursday morning.
Main roads such as Guide Meridian north of Bellingham were reported bare and wet, with some puddles and stretches of standing water.
Mike Olinger, superintendent of maintenance at the city of Bellingham Public Works Department, said crews that have been working around the clock for nearly a week to keep roads clear would now be keeping an eye on storm drains that have been blocked by snow.
“Everyone fully expects that we’ll be going from running (plow) trucks to trying to dig catch basins out,” Olinger said.
Snow-removal crews from the Washington State Department of Transportation, Whatcom County and its various smaller cities also have been working extended shifts in the wake of snow and ice storms across lowland Whatcom County.
Whatcom County issued an emergency proclamation Wednesday, allowing local officials to seek state aid or approval to use private resources to address a specific needs in a natural disaster, Gargett said. Lynden officials also filed an emergency proclamation Wednesday.
Mt. Baker Ski Area, which was closed for a fourth straight day Thursday because of a 10-mile closure of the Mount Baker Highway east of Glacier, where about 100 trees have toppled across the road under the weight of some 4 feet of snow, will be open Friday for normal mid-week operation, according to its Facebook page. WSDOT has cleared the roadway Thursday afternoon, according to the ski area’s online post.
This weekend’s annual Legendary Banked Slalom, an internationally known snowboarding competition, “will run as scheduled with racer check in starting” at 8:15 a.m. Friday.
In the backcountry, an avalanche warning was issued across the North Cascades, and danger level was raised to high both above and below the treeline, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.
Thursday’s thaw was likely to continue, with some showers into Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures will rise, pushing toward the high 40s through the weekend.
“We’re done with the snow and freezing rain for now,” said Mike McFarlane, a meteorologist with the weather service in Seattle. “Everything will be able to thaw out. It might take a little while.”