"Holy cow" -- check out the snow at Mt. Baker Ski Area this week
What’s shaping up as a rainy weekend could extend into a warm, wet start to the week if a weather system hammers Western Washington as forecasters expect.
That means rain in the North Cascades, which would raise the Nooksack River to near flood stage across lowland Whatcom County and close Mt. Baker Ski Area temporarily.
“We’re looking at a period of possibly heavy rain,” said meteorologist Jeff Michalski at the National Weather Service in Seattle. “This system is kind of a quick mover.”
Michalski said rainfall totals in the lowlands of Whatcom County could be a quarter of an inch Saturday; .50 to 1 inch Saturday night and Sunday, and 1 to 1.5 inches Sunday night and Monday.
In the North Cascades, a winter weather advisory is in effect until Saturday night, and 12 to 18 inches of snow are forecast through then. Avalanche danger has been reduced to considerable both above and below the treeline, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.
More than 130 inches of snow have fallen at Mt. Baker Ski Area since Jan. 18.
But a warm front is expected to move across the region Sunday, boosting temperatures above 50 degrees in Bellingham and raising the snow levels to 6,000 feet in the North Cascades. Pan Dome, the highest point at Mt. Baker Ski Area, is about 5,000 feet.
Plans are for the ski area to be open Saturday, close Sunday and Monday, and open Tuesday, said Gywn Howat, executive vice president of Mt. Baker Ski Area.
“In light of those forecasts, we’re going to hunker down,” Howat said Friday.
Daytime highs in the mountains are expected to be well above freezing, and rainfall totals could top 3 inches Sunday night and Monday.
All that rain will go straight into the Nooksack River, along with any melting snow, Michalski said.
Rain could be heavier than forecast, he said.
“The issue is whether this front is going to stall over British Columbia,” he said. “Right now, the bulk is going toward Vancouver Island.”
Nooksack River levels were below flood stage near Deming and near Ferndale, according to Friday readings from U.S. Geological Survey stations.
Water levels are expected to crest at or just below flood stage on Tuesday, according to the Northwest River Forecast Center.