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February storms’ cost rises to $2.5 million in Whatcom County

Plows clear snowdrifts on Highway 9 north of Nooksack

Strong northeast winds have kept road crews busy clearing roads of snowdrifts. These snowplow drivers were on Highway 9 north of Nooksack, Wash. on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Areas north of Bellingham received some 6 to 10 inches overnight Monday and Tues
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Strong northeast winds have kept road crews busy clearing roads of snowdrifts. These snowplow drivers were on Highway 9 north of Nooksack, Wash. on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Areas north of Bellingham received some 6 to 10 inches overnight Monday and Tues

A series of storms that slammed the Northwest in early February with heavy snow, freezing rain and high winds has cost some $2.5 million in Whatcom County and could reach much higher as federal disaster aid is sought through the state, officials said Wednesday.

That $2.5 million figure includes a sinkhole that undermined a Lynden street the night of Feb. 15, said John Gargett, deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

“That was caused by rapid snowmelt and is attributable to the same storm system,” Gargett said, adding that state emergency officials are assembling storm costs from counties and are applying to federal authorities for financial assistance to cope with problems and damage, including snow removal, flooding, debris clearing, damaged buildings, overtime for city and county public works crews, and extra staffing for police and fire agencies. A presidential disaster declaration is required for aid to be sent, Gargett said.

Whatcom County figures don’t take into account state Department of Transportation expenses, costs to local retailers, or losses sustained by residents whose homes or cars were damaged in wrecks or by frozen pipes and falling trees, Gargett said. Lynden officials said sinkhole repairs could take months and cost $500,000 to $1 million.

Several agencies including the city of Bellingham have yet to tally their storm-related costs, Gargett said. Whatcom County Public Works Department costs exceed $750,000, he said.

A series of winter storms hit Whatcom County several days from Feb. 3-9. Most public schools were closed for a week, some flights were canceled at Bellingham International Airport, Bellis Fair closed for one day and sent workers home early once. Dozens of car wrecks were reported and power outages affected some 7,000 Puget Sound Energy customers early in the week. A handful of outages lasted more than 24 hours, affecting about 1,000 customers.

Snowfall ranged from a few inches in downtown Bellingham, but areas such as Ferndale, Lynden and Sumas saw 1 to 2 feet or more of blowing and drifting snow as fierce winds roared south from British Columbia. Many roads were coated in compact snow and ice, making travel difficult and dangerous.

In the North Cascades, the Mt. Baker Ski Area received approximately 4 feet of powder, but its runs were closed for several days because a 10-mile stretch of Mount Baker Highway east of Glacier was blocked by up to 100 fallen trees.

Across the Northwest region, early February storms also socked Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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