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Here’s what’s up with Whatcom County’s Monday snowfall, and what Tuesday is looking like

Snow blankets Bellingham Monday morning

Bellingham residents woke up to 2 to 4 inches of fresh snow Monday morning, Feb. 11, 2019, with another storm expected to hit later this afternoon.
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Bellingham residents woke up to 2 to 4 inches of fresh snow Monday morning, Feb. 11, 2019, with another storm expected to hit later this afternoon.

Here’s what you need to know about Whatcom snow for Tuesday

Whatcom County residents had barely dug themselves out from the snowstorm that hit Sunday afternoon and Monday morning when large flakes from a second round of snow began falling Monday afternoon and schools announced a second day off.

National Weather Service meteorologists issued a winter storm warning from 4 p.m. Monday to 6 a.m. Tuesday, with more snow likely.

Forecasters said the new storm could bring another 6 to 8 inches of snow to the Whatcom County lowlands by Tuesday morning.

“If you’re north of Everett, in the Cascade foothills, or in the mountains (Cascades and Olympics), it looks like an all-snow forecast. And plenty of it,” the weather service tweeted from Seattle at about 5:30 a.m. Monday.

Another 8 inches to 1 foot of snow was forecast in the North Cascades, where the Northwest Avalanche Center posted a warning for considerable avalanche danger in the Mount Baker wilderness backcounty.

By midday Monday, city and county road crews had sanded and plowed, and were ready for another long night, said John Gargett, deputy director or the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

“Regional coordination continue, plows and sanders are readied, and crews are ready,” he said in an emailed statement Monday. “Public works crews are on the road now sanding existing trouble spots and applying anti-icing agent.”

Schools were closed or delayed across Whatcom County early Monday and travel was hazardous in many areas, as 2 to 4 inches of snow fell overnight Sunday.

“Don’t go out if you don’t have to. If you do, use caution and be prepared,” the What-Comm emergency dispatch center posted about 7 a.m. Monday at its Whatcom County 911 Facebook page.

“Do not call 911 to ask about road conditions or to report power outages,” What-Comm officials said.

What-Comm said via Facebook Messenger that things calmed down Monday after a brutal weekend of fires, car wrecks, power outages and other emergencies related to the wintry weather.

Weather forecast

Daytime temperatures hovered near freezing Monday.

Some areas of Western Washington could see rain changing to snow, further complicating the afternoon commute, forecasters said.

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Snow reached almost 6 inches south of Bellingham, Wash., in Sudden Valley on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Dave Gallagher The Bellingham Herald

Northeast wind will blow at 15 to 20 mph, and producing wind chills as low as 7 degrees, the weather service said online.

Canadian weather service Environment Canada was forecasting 6 to 10 inches of new snow Monday night for the Vancouver, B.C., region, which means that northern Whatcom County could see greater snowfall than Bellingham.

Bellingham, Blaine, Ferndale, Lynden, Meridian and Mt. Baker districts Monday announced schools would be closed Tuesday. Lummi Nation also announced its school will be closed Tuesday. So did Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College and Western Washington University.

In an email to students and staff, Bellingham Schools Superintendent Greg Baker asked for patience in the face of an unprecedented series of snowstorms.

“Bellingham, like most of Western Washington, just does not have the infrastructure of other places in the country to handle such severe weather,” Baker said. “Here in Bellingham, we have to be a bit more patient as our city and county crews work hard to clear and maintain roadways.”

Road conditions

Many roads across Bellingham and Whatcom County remained treacherous Monday morning with some streets packed with snow and deep ruts as road crews tried to keep pace with sudden heavy snowfall.

Side streets were covered in light powder, according to Bellingham Herald reporters’ observations.

“Roads are slick, and Whatcom County Public Works has multiple crews out sanding, as do municipal public works (departments),” Gargett said.

By Monday afternoon, many main roads were clear of snow and others were passable but with compact snow and ice.

Lake Louise Road was blocked temporarily where it becomes Austin Street late Sunday by a Whatcom Transportation Authority bus that was stuck across both lanes.

WTA tweeted Monday morning that Lake Louise Road hadn’t been plowed, so its bus service to Sudden Valley was using Lake Whatcom Boulevard and turning around at Sudden Valley Gate 1.

Buses were fitted with snow chains Monday, WTA said, which limits their speed to 25 mph, and asked riders to expect delays.

“I feel like a broken record but you need to slow down when driving in these icy/snowy conditions,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman tweeted Monday.

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The sun rises over Lake Whatcom Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Bellingham, Wash. Dave Gallagher The Bellingham Herald

Cars without chains or four-wheel drive had trouble navigating the steep hills around Bellingham on Sunday night.

Several cars slid backward on Chestnut Street between Forest and North Garden streets about 7:30 p.m. Sunday, and others skidded heading downhill on East Holly Street.

Drivers had an easier time on Chestnut Street by Monday morning, observers said.

Pedestrians braved the 20-degree temperatures and breezy conditions Sunday night to explore downtown Bellingham while it was wrapped in a blanket of white.

Weather impact

About 100 Puget Sound Energy customers were without electricity Monday in the wake of Saturday’s fierce windstorm that knocked out service to 10,000 customers in Whatcom County.

Colleges and schools were closed Monday, including Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College and Western Washington University.

“Due to snow and ice, the university’s main campus in Bellingham will be closed,” communications director Paul Cocke said in an email. “All classes, including evening classes, have been canceled for Monday. Only those employees designated as essential should report to work.”

All public secondary schools were closed Monday.

Randy Small, who maintains the Whatcom County Weather page on Facebook, posted a photo of Lynden’s iconic windmill obscured by driving snow.

State Farm Insurance offers tips to help you keep your pipes from freezing during the winter.

Warming and drop-in centers were opened in Bellingham and Lummi Nation, and others were ready to open if they were needed, Gargett said in an email.

Whatcom County search and rescue personnel were on standby but no SAR missions have been necessary, he said.

“Call volume at both What-Comm (police) and Prospect (fire) is within normal levels,” he said.

Later this week

A chance of further snow accumulation was possible later this week as Western Washington remains in the grip of a record-breaking cold spell that began Super Bowl Sunday.

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Gina Gabl, a Henderson Books employee, shovels snow off of the sidewalk in front of the storefront in downtown Bellingham, Wash., on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Lacey Young The Bellingham Herald

Frigid air from the Fraser River Valley of British Columbia is flowing south into Whatcom County and the pattern doesn’t appear ready to break anytime soon.

Long-range NOAA forecasts show a strong chance that the Fraser Outflow will continue for up to two weeks.

Bellingham has set low-temperature marks on four of the past nine days and the average high temperature for February is 36.4 degrees — a full 12 degrees below the normal high of 48.4, according to National Weather Service records for Bellingham International Airport dating to 1949.

Airport update

Airport officials said passengers should check with their airline about flight delays and cancellations.

“We are working hard to keep the runway open, but heavy and blowing snow is reducing visibility to below minimums for safe aircraft operations,” Bellingham airport officials tweeted about 2 a.m. Monday.

Alaska Airlines had several cancellations Monday, but it was unsure if they were weather-related.

This story will be updated. You can share your photos of the storm here.

See what’s happening around Whatcom County with these webcams.

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Robert Mittendorf covers civic issues, weather, traffic and how people are coping with the high cost of housing for The Bellingham Herald. A journalist since 1984, he’s also a volunteer firefighter for South Whatcom Fire Authority.
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