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Warm rain is forecast all this week, and officials are closely watching area rivers

Will Nooksack River reach flood stage?

Warm weather and rain will cause the Nooksack River to rise near flood stage on Tuesday, Jan 30.
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Warm weather and rain will cause the Nooksack River to rise near flood stage on Tuesday, Jan 30.

Warm, wet weather across Western Washington has prompted a flood watch for the lowlands and increased avalanche fears across the North Cascades.

Mt. Baker Ski Area prepared to open Tuesday after closing for two days as temperatures rose above freezing and driving rain battered the high peaks. Conditions were “wet, soft, packed snow” with temperatures in the 30s, the ski area’s website reported Sunday night.

But temperatures were dropping early Monday and snow was reported at Pan Dome, the highest part of the ski area, and at Heather Meadows. White Salmon base was seeing a mixture of rain and snow about noon Monday, said Gywn Howat, the ski area’s executive vice president.

“It’s starting to switch over (to snow),” Howat said. She said plans were to open at 9 a.m. Tuesday with normal midweek operations.

“We were doing avalanche control,” she added. “We spent a lot of time digging out facilities, after the 12-plus feet of snow last week.”

Avalanche danger was listed as high across the east and west slopes of the North Cascades and the Olympics, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.

Some 150 inches of snow fell at the ski area from Jan. 18-27 the ski area said in its snow report.

Melting snow and rain in the Cascades is sending runoff directly into the Nooksack River, according to the National Weather Service.

Rain and snow showers are forecast for Tuesday in the mountains, and continued rain in the lowlands of Whatcom County, where officials are watching the rising Nooksack River.

Washington State Patrol trooper Travis Joyce demonstrates how to handle your vehicle driving through standing water during these wet winter months.

A flood watch is in effect through 4 p.m. Tuesday.

Forecast models for the Nooksack River call for the river to peak Tuesday at or just below flood stage of 18 feet at Ferndale and 146.5 feet near Nugents Corner, according to the Northwest River Forecast Center in Portland, Ore.

The river remained well below flood stage at both locations Monday morning, according to readings posted online.

National Weather Service forecasts for lowland Whatcom County call for showers or rain daily through Friday, with temperatures in the mid-40s. Snow is forecast for the North Cascades, with rain possible for the weekend.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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