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New record for days without ‘wetting rain.’ But what about the burn ban?

Finally! After 83 days look what happened in Whatcom County

Bellingham has not seen more than a tenth of an inch of rain since June 16 - a record 83 days - until a brief shower Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.
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Bellingham has not seen more than a tenth of an inch of rain since June 16 - a record 83 days - until a brief shower Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.

Showers that sprinkled Whatcom County on Saturday amounted to a record 84 days without a “wetting rain,” which is less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation.

More than a tenth of an inch of rain last fell in Bellingham on June 16, when 0.11 inch was measured at Bellingham International Airport – the previous record for lack of wetting rain was 81 days in 1951, according to National Weather Service records.

But the .20 inch of rain that fell Saturday wasn’t enough to cancel a countywide burn ban that includes campfires and recreational fires, weather and fire officials said.

“We don’t see anything significant in terms of changing the dryness,” said meteorologist Logan Johnson at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

He said the Whatcom County forecast shows a slight chance of showers for several days starting Tuesday night.

Summers in Northwest Washington often see little rainfall, but the NOAA Climate Prediction Center calls it an “abnormally dry” period across the entire Pacific Northwest, affecting agriculture and grasslands as well as forests.

Only 1.95 inches of rain has fallen in Bellingham since May 1, according to National Weather Service records. Normal rainfall for that four-month period is 6.75 inches.

Records show that so far this month, high temperatures in Bellingham are nearly 10 degrees above average for September, which opened with five straight days of temperatures in the 80s.

Mitch Nolze, a Whatcom County fire investigator, said some restrictions on burning could be eased if the weather remains cooler as it has for several days. He said the ban on campfires and recreational fires would ease as conditions allow, as part of a coordinated effort with officials statewide.

“We’re looking for sustained higher humidity levels” before seeing the wildfire threat decrease, Nolze said. “We’re getting some nice days that aren’t too hot. We’re starting to get dew in the morning, which is good.”

It likely will be several weeks before land-clearing fires will again be allowed, he said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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