Winds continue to topple trees, knock out power in Bellingham area

Wind gusts weren’t as strong from a second storm system that hit Whatcom County Wednesday morning, Dec. 10, but they still knocked down trees and power lines.

A tree in the 2800 block of Sunset Drive in Bellingham tipped onto a house but appeared to cause little damage.

Trees fell on Chuckanut Drive and California Street about 11 a.m., knocking down power lines and cutting electricity to about 400 homes. California Street and part of the Interurban Trail were blocked off for safety until crews could fix the damage. Power remained out into the evening.

More than 1,400 Puget Sound Energy customers in the Peaceful Valley area lost power about 10 a.m., but PSE listed it restored shortly after noon.

In the early evening, power lines were reported down on Wiser Lake Road and Northshore Drive south of Y Road.

PSE responded to several other small outages around the county.

Wednesday also was the hottest December day on record in Bellingham, according to the National Weather Service. The official temperature, as recorded at Bellingham International Airport, hit 67 degrees. That broke the Dec. 10 record of 60 degrees from 1995 and just topped the all-time recorded December high of 66 degrees from Dec. 4, 2006.

Thursday’s weather might be more of the same. The NWS forecast calls for possible coastal flooding in the morning from high tides combining with storm surge. Whatcom County had minor flooding along low-lying coastal spots Tuesday and Wednesday.

Winds are expected to pick up Thursday afternoon into early Friday. Western Whatcom County could get sustained south winds of 30 to 45 mph during that time, and some spots in Western Washington could get gusts as high as 75 mph, the NWS cautions.

Rain, heavy at times, is expected through Friday. That means another round of keeping an eye on the Nooksack River for possible minor flooding. Sections of the river have been close to flooding this week.

The NWS also is expecting some landslides because of the heavy rain, especially in the mountains. It’s been all rain and no snow for most areas, including Mt. Baker Ski Area.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation related to earlier storms from Nov. 25 to Dec. 3 in Clallam, Jefferson, King, Skagit and Whatcom counties.

Since the end of November crews have been keeping an especially close eye on the Warnick Bluff, an eroding wall of sand, gravel and topsoil along a stretch of Mount Baker Highway, where the road comes within yards of the Nooksack River and within feet of the bluff. The spot west of Glacier, and just west of the Warnick Bridge at milepost 30, has long been unstable, to the point that part of the highway was moved away from the river several years ago. The most recent series of storms has increased the urgency to find a permanent fix.

Inslee’s emergency declaration could provide $3 million to do that. It’s the largest chunk of the $5 million in repairs that the governor called for in the declaration late Wednesday afternoon. Details about how the money will be used weren’t available in the late afternoon from the state Department of Transportation.

Crews will continue to monitor the road and the bluff every two hours, around the clock, until this week’s storms subside, said DOT spokeswoman Harmony Haveman Weinberg.