Expect temperatures in the high 80s and 90s this week as a heat wave eases into Western Washington and plops down for an extended stay.
An excessive heat warning is in effect Tuesday through Friday for areas including Whatcom and Skagit counties from the Salish Sea shoreline to the Cascades Mountains.
At the National Weather Service in Seattle, meteorologists said record-breaking high temperatures are possible.
“It’s not unusual for us to get warm spells in summer, but this will be warmer,” said meteorologist Gary Schneider. “We’re going to have several days of warmer weather.”
Schneider said a strong high-pressure system is creeping north from Oregon and will squat over Western Washington until winds shift to the west and bring cooler air from the Pacific Ocean on Saturday.
Warmest days will be Wednesday and Thursday, when temperature records could fall, Schneider said.
For Bellingham, a high of 80 degrees is forecast for Tuesday, 85 on Wednesday, 89 on Thursday, and 84 on Friday. Bellingham record highs for Wednesday and Thursday are 90 and 89 degrees, respectively.
Higher temperatures are expected inland, such as Lynden and Sumas. Across the border from Sumas in Abbotsford, B.C., the weather service Environment Canada is forecasting highs of 34 and 36 Celsius (93 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday and Thursday.
At Marblemount along the North Cascades Highway, the forecast high Thursday is 100, prompting the weather service to issue a fire weather watch for the region. Dew points were in the 50s, with fuel moisture level at 14 percent.
Heat will only add to dry conditions across Whatcom County, and effective 8 a.m. on Wednesday, “all open burning is prohibited in unincorporated Whatcom County until further notice.”
Officials said the ban is in conjunction with statewide outdoor burning restrictions ordered by the state Department of Natural Resources for all state-protected land.
“All outdoor burning is prohibited during this ban, including yard debris fires, land clearing fires, and recreational fires,” according to a news release from the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office issued Monday afternoon.
Propane fire pits – without wood burning material – are still allowed, along with propane and charcoal grills, but fire officials urge the public to practice extra caution when discarding used charcoal and ashes. Wood burning fire pits or similar enclosures with grates are not allowed.
The shift in wind could also bring smoke from wildfires that have been burning for nearly a month in remote regions northeast of Vancouver, B.C.
“Wildfire smoke could impact Whatcom, Skagit and Island communities for the next few days,” said Seth Preston at the Northwest Clean Air Agency. “Air quality could be unhealthy at times in particular on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Rain has fallen only twice since June 18 as measured at Bellingham International Airport, for a total 0.08 inches in 44 days – all of it in July. Normal July rainfall is 1.18 inches.
Monday marks 44 days without measurable rain for Seattle, which must hit 52 days without rain to break an all-time record. There’s no rain in the immediate forecast.
By Saturday, temperatures should return to the more seasonable high 70s, Schneider said. Normal high temperature for early August in Bellingham is the low 70s.
Residents are urged to drink plenty of water and avoid prolonged outdoor activities during the heat wave. Older people and small children are most at risk from the heat.
Officials caution against leaving children and pets in cars, even with cracked windows. Heat stroke, a life-threatening condition, can develop quickly.
Recent sunny weather with highs in the 70s has been ideal for Whatcom County’s famed red raspberries and blueberries, and growers are in the midst of their annual harvest.
Blueberries are more heat-tolerant, but fragile raspberries are known to melt on the vine as temperatures approach 100.
What’s up with the burn ban
If you have any questions on open burning in Whatcom County, call the Whatcom County Fire Marshal’s Office at 360-778-5900, or listen to the current burn ban information at 360-778-5903.