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Power outages in wake of strong winds; bigger storm due

First storm of October 2017 brings rain, wind

The first blustery storm of the 2017-2018 rainy season brought about a quarter-inch of rain overnight to Bellingham, along with brisk winds and scattered small power outages.
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The first blustery storm of the 2017-2018 rainy season brought about a quarter-inch of rain overnight to Bellingham, along with brisk winds and scattered small power outages.

One down, two to go.

Western Washington’s first storm of the 2017-2018 rainy season brought wind, rain, and scattered power outages but did little harm in Whatcom County.

No major damage was reported and local schools were operating with normal hours as the worst of the storm struck during the morning commute. Some bus drivers reported roads blocked or partially blocked by fallen tree limbs. Firefighters were sent to scattered reports of arcing power lines and the Sudden Valley Community Association posted online about fallen limbs blocking a road inside Gate 3.

Puget Sound Energy reported via its online outage map that nearly 5,000 Whatcom County homes and businesses were without power at 8 a.m. Tuesday. Later, that number dropped to a few hundred customers locally.

Bellingham was one of the windiest places in the North Sound region, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle, which said a gust of 38 mph was recorded about 8 a.m. at Bellingham International Airport.

“Typical fall weather in Western Washington,” said Ni Cushmeer, a weather service meteorologist. Nearly a half-inch of rain fell from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to records at the airport.

1017 storm (2)

Cushmeer said a bigger blow is headed this way Wednesday, one that forecasters said is packing stronger winds and heavier rain. Whatcom County looks to be in the eye of the storm, which is blowing in from the south-southeast with sustained winds of 25-35 mph and gusts to 50 mph, she said.

“You guys (in Whatcom County) tend to be more prone to strong southerly winds,” Cushmeer said. “Places like Cherry Point and Ferndale tend to blow pretty well.”

She said the storm is expected to gain strength during the morning commute Wednesday and its worst winds will hit in early afternoon. A high wind watch is in effect from Wednesday morning through Wednesday evening.

Some urban flooding is possible from gutters and storms drains clogged by fallen leaves. Major river flooding is unlikely from storms this week, the weather service said.

Bellingham city officials asked residents to help minimize urban flooding by keeping streetside gutters and neighborhood storm drains clear of leaves and debris that fell Tuesday.

Wednesday’s storm is the second in a string of blustery weather due to hit Western Washington this week. Thursday and Friday will be rainy, but a third big blow is due by this weekend.

“The Saturday system still looks pretty strong,” Cushmeer said.

Rain and showers are likely through at least Sunday, according to updated forecasts. Temperatures will be in the mid-50s, with overnight lows in the high 40s.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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