Flooding closes Whatcom County roads, parks

See some of the places impacted by Nooksack River flooding in Ferndale area

Flood water from the Nooksack River covers various locations around Ferndale on Friday, Nov. 24.
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Flood water from the Nooksack River covers various locations around Ferndale on Friday, Nov. 24.

Several roads across Whatcom County were under water and some Ferndale parks were closed as the Nooksack River crested its banks Friday.

Firefighters also were called to rescue a motorist trapped atop his submerged pickup near Ferndale and Slater roads.

According to emergency radio transmissions, sheriff’s officials were awaiting a boat late Friday afternoon to rescue the man, who apparently drove past barricades about 2 p.m. Friday. He was uninjured.

Several days of rain, coupled with unseasonably warm temperatures, pushed the Nooksack River and its tributaries past flood stage Thursday at several locations from the Cascades foothills west. Glacier, Lynden, Everson, Nugents Corner and other areas reported minor flooding over the past few days, said John Gargett, deputy director of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

“Water is overtopping roads from Ferndale to the mouth of the Nooksack,” Gargett said in an email Friday. “There are, and will continue to be, road closures and water/debris over roads in the many locations around Whatcom County.”

Friday’s focus was at Ferndale, where the Nooksack hit minor flood stage of 18 feet early Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s online site – the river crested about noon just below the moderate flood stage of 20.5 feet.

USGS online forecast models show the water dropping sharply to under 15 feet by Saturday and continuing to recede through the weekend.

“Hydrologically significant rainfall has ended,” the National Weather Service said in its online forecast discussion Friday. “Rivers that are flooding now are responding to rainfall over the past three days, which was copious in the mountains. Upstream reaches of rivers are receding now, and most downstream reaches are getting close to their crests. Cooler weather and less precipitation through Saturday morning will allow rivers to recede further.”

Forecasts show cloudy skies with a chance of rain through Sunday. Temperatures will be in the low 50s with overnight lows in the high 40s. Snow is forecast in the North Cascades with daytime highs around freezing.

Water washed over roads across Whatcom County on Wednesday and Thursday, forcing closures and detours but not causing serious damage, Gargett said. He said storm-related costs or damages have not required an emergency declaration.

1124 Flood 2

Some 1,070 Puget Sound Energy customers in the mountain community of Glacier remained without power Friday because of a “natural disaster,” according to PSE’s online outage site. Area resident Doug Huddle said the Nooksack River washed out a section of utility poles Thursday morning along the Mount Baker Highway.

Estimated power restoration time is Saturday, PSE said.

A total of .38 inches of rain fell Thursday as measured at Bellingham International Airport, for a total of 2.51 inches since Sunday. The week’s rain comes toward the end of an abnormally dry November, and pushed the monthly rainfall totals closer to normal levels.

Rain was far heavier in the mountains during that period – as much as 9 inches in the North Cascades, meteorologists said – adding to runoff as the warm weather pushed the snow level to about 8,000 feet.

1124 Flood 3

After record high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday, the high of 58 on Thursday at Bellingham Airport was just 3 degrees below the record of 61 set in 1995.

A flood warning was canceled for the region but a “special weather statement” remains in effect, warning of the threat of landslides from saturated hillsides.

In Skagit County, the Skagit River has reached its highest level in 11 years, resulting in flooding that closed roads and an alert telling some residents to prepare to evacuate.

A worst-case scenario would involve the displacement of 250 people, the Skagit County Department of Emergency Management said Thursday. The National Weather Service said the river at Concrete reached 36.56 feet just after 2 p.m. Thursday.

The Red Cross set up a shelter at the Hamilton First Baptist Church, 797 Hamilton Cemetery Road, Thursday afternoon for residents affected by the flooding from the Skagit River, said Joyce Bottenberg, a spokeswoman for the local Red Cross.

“The shelter is open for anyone needing shelter or assistance due to the flooding evacuation,” Bottenberg said in an email. “Evacuating residents are encouraged to bring the following for each member of their family: prescription and emergency medication, extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents and other comfort items. Additionally, special items for children and infants, such as diapers, formulas and toys, should be brought, along with other items for family members who may have other needs.”

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty