Here’s how snow and ice are impacting Whatcom County on Thursday

Take a drive down Bellingham’s snowy streets

Watch a speedy journey down some of Bellingham's most popular streets on Wednesday morning, Feb. 13, 2019. While there are warmer temperatures are on the way, many streets still remain covered in snow and ice.
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Watch a speedy journey down some of Bellingham's most popular streets on Wednesday morning, Feb. 13, 2019. While there are warmer temperatures are on the way, many streets still remain covered in snow and ice.

Friday update: Here’s what you need to know Friday as snowmageddon wraps up

Snow began to fall about 4 p.m. in Bellingham, after a day of slow thaw from four days of snowfall in Whatcom County.

Bellingham Public Schools and Lummi Nation announced classes are canceled for Friday. Other Whatcom districts had long-planned days off on Friday. Northwest Indian College also canceled Friday classes.

Temperatures rose above freezing Thursday, but exact readings were uncertain because National Weather Service instruments at Bellingham International Airport malfunctioned Wednesday and were being repaired, said meteorologist Samantha Borth in Seattle.

In an interview, Borth said that weather stations in the immediate vicinity were reporting 37 to 40 degrees — the warmest temperatures since the cold snap began Feb. 3.

Meanwhile, overnight low temperatures will hover near freezing and that could mean slick roads again for the morning commute Friday.

“Right now, it looks like that,” Borth said. “It looks like things will definitely melt then re-freeze at night.”

Weather service meteorologist Dustin Guy said that the pattern could continue through the weekend.

“We’re still in this cool, unsettled pattern,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “You’ll see a slow moderation during the day, only to see that progress erased at night.”

Environment Canada was predicting a chance of up to 2 to 4 inches of snow with a high near freezing for Abbotsford, B.C., just north of Lynden and Sumas.

bellingham fire shovel
Anne Campbell was trying to clear the driveway at her King Mountain home Thursday when Bellingham firefighters who were in the neighborhood stopped to help. “I’m 70 this year so really appreciated the help,” she said. “These firemen are my heroes.” Anne Campbell Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

“Arctic air is still in place over the area (Thursday) morning but a trend towards slightly milder conditions will occur through the afternoon and temperatures are expected to remain near the freezing mark tonight,” Canadian meteorologists said on their website.

Landslides also were a concern as melting snow saturated the ground, the weather service said online.

Thursday was the first morning without new snowfall in four days, but Whatcom County drivers found that ice was their new foe.

Guide Meridian was closed from Main Street in Lynden to Badger Road for about 90 minutes early Thursday because of ice and blowing snow, the state Department of Transportation tweeted.

“Some good-sized drifts here,” said Randy Small of Lynden, who manages the Whatcom County Weather page on Facebook.

“This reminds me of one of the worst snow amounts that I’ve seen here, and I’ve lived in this area since 2001,” Small said in a Facebook Live video from Bender Fields northeast of downtown Lynden.

bellingham snowman
A snowman dreaming of warmer days lounges with a drink in the Birchwood Neighborhood on Wednesday in Bellingham. Kelly Morgan Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Amateur weather observers with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network were reporting total snowfall amounts Thursday of 8 inches to 18 inches across lowland Whatcom County.

Several feet of snow fell this week in the North Cascades, and the Northwest Avalanche Center warned of “considerable” danger in the Mount Baker wilderness backcountry.

Icy conditions also were reported on Interstate 5 north of Bellingham, where a car spun off the freeway near Custer and emergency crews blocked one of the northbound lanes.

“This is why we tell you to take it slow on the icy roads,” WSDOT’s Andrea Petrich tweeted.

Petrich also advised drivers to clear all the snow off their car before driving — not just the windows, but also from the roof, hood and trunk.

Icy roads in morning

Observers told The Bellingham Herald that driving on Meridian was easier as they approached Bellingham, and others reported that Squalicum Parkway, Roeder Avenue and Chestnut Street were in good condition.

Hannegan Road was reported icy near Pole Road at Hinote’s Corner.

Most main roads were open and many were free of snow and ice, but secondary streets were covered in compact snow and ice and lesser-traveled roads were impassable, observers said.

Officials at What-Comm, the county’s 911 dispatch center, reported no serious weather-related incidents.

“Obviously slick spots out there, but at this time nothing unusual,” dispatchers said via Facebook Messenger.

Public works efforts

Bellingham’s Public Works Department employees put in more than 6,000 total hours since the snow emergency began Sunday, spokeswoman Amy Cloud said in an email.

“With major roadways and city plowing/snow routes cleared, we are starting on secondary roads and side streets,” Cloud said.

“Plowing effectiveness will be limited until temperatures rise,” she said. “Public works crews will be bringing backhoes and loaders to downtown to remove snow.”

Cloud said 24-hour operations are ending, and that the city’s road crews used 600,000 pounds of traction sand, 600,000 pounds of salt and sprayed 28,000 gallons of salt brine with beet juice as an anti-icing agent

Readers of The Bellingham Herald shared their photos of the snowstorm that hit the region in February 2019.

She said no injuries were reported and there were no collisions involving snow-removal equipment.

And in the midst of #Snowmageddon2019, crews fixed two broken water mains.

National Weather Service observations at Bellingham International Airport said it was 28 degrees and clear at 5 a.m. Thursday, with a north wind at 8 mph and a wind chill of 11 degrees.

Meteorologists call it the Fraser Outflow, and it’s why daytime temperatures in Whatcom County are averaging more than 13 degrees below the high of 48 degrees that’s normal for mid-February.

Schools closed

Schools were closed for a fourth straight day in the Bellingham, Blaine, Ferndale, Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley, Meridian and Lummi Nation districts amid fears of an extended school year to make up lost class time.

Lynden and Lynden Christian schools were planning to open but eventually canceled classes. Bellingham Christian canceled classes Thursday after initially posting a two-hour late start.

Northwest Indian College was closed Thursday.

Western Washington University was open but warned of limited parking from the foot of snow that had fallen around Bellingham in a series of storms since Sunday.

Whatcom Community College canceled classes before 10 a.m. and Bellingham Technical College canceled classes that end by 10:10 a.m.

Residents weather the storm

Temperatures in Whatcom County rose above freezing on Wednesday for the first time since Feb. 3 as a slow thaw began after four days of snow and a cold, hard wind that knocked out power, caused crashes and closed schools across Western Washington.

“Ice, ice, baby,” said Rodrigo Garcia-Berguecio of Happy Valley, in a Facebook message to The Bellingham Herald.

Main streets in Bellingham were clear Wednesday, as were many main roads in rural Whatcom County, but side streets were covered in compact snow and ice.

Cars parked along main streets were snow-covered and trapped behind drifts pushed aside by plows, a sign that they hadn’t moved for days.

“Our street still has too much snow and it is difficult for cars to get up and down,” Emily Baird-Levine of the Puget neighborhood said on Facebook.

Schools offer free meals

Bellingham Schools Superintendent Greg Baker said conditions were bad enough Wednesday afternoon that he canceled classes and activities for Thursday.

“As I just drove the city, people are walking in the streets due to unsafe sidewalks, parking lots are either deep in snow or potentially turning into ice arenas,” Baker wrote in an email to parents and staff.

Tim Weber wrote on Facebook that the roads were “really icy, and still lots of snow” in his Cordata neighborhood.

Kim Melville Ingham of Birch Bay wrote on Facebook to thank snow-removal crews who have been working 12-hour shifts as state, county and city road departments have been operating around the clock since the weather emergency began.

“They even cleared the deep snow off several side roads in Birch Bay area. Great job!” Ingham said. “Roads weren’t too bad last night if you were slow and careful.”

Bellingham Schools said on the district’s Facebook page that they were offering free hot meals at several locations, including some apartment complexes and the Boys and Girls clubs.

Almost 500 free meals were delivered Wednesday, Baker said in a Facebook message.

Baker also said that the district would seek a waiver from the state Office of Public Instruction after snowfall forced six days off in two weeks.

Bond issues passing

A special election continued despite the storm, with bond measures on the ballot for Ferndale and Nooksack Valley.

After two days of counting, both measures were passing Thursday with the required 60 percent supermajority, according to the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.

Voter turnout was 38 percent, about half the rate for the recent midterm elections.

Trash pickup affected

Trash pickup was being affected by the weather, and garbage and recycling hauler Sanitary Services Co. asked customers for patience.

“If we cannot collect material on your regular service day due to unsafe road conditions, please leave your container(s) out at the curb (or alley), “ said recycling/safety manager Rodd Pemble.

“We will collect material as soon as possible.,” he said in an email Wednesday. “This may be the next business day or the next time we are scheduled to service your area.”

Customers also could place their bins out of traffic along the closest accessible road, because the containers bear a number unique to each customer, Pemble said.

PSE, buses, airport

Puget Sound Energy was reporting only one customer affected by an electrical outage in Whatcom County at 8 a.m. Thursday.

About 5,000 PSE customers were without power in the utility’s service area, mostly in harder-hit areas around Seattle.

Whatcom Transportation Authority buses were running a more normal schedule with a few detours Monday, and Route 1 wasn’t traveling the slippery South Hill and Route 533 was skipping Old Lakeway.

Bellingham International Airport reported no delays Thursday.

Emergency declarations

Lynden joined Bellingham, Whatcom County and the state of Washington in issuing an emergency proclamation that lets officials use overtime and take other steps during the weather crisis that usually would require advance approval.

Such a designation also allows local agencies to seek reimbursement from the federal government for disaster-related expenses.

Bellingham also opened emergency shelters and appeals went out for donations to help the area’s homeless population.

“Your help is urgently needed for Street Connect,” Lighthouse Mission Ministries wrote on its Facebook page. “Your donations help get hand warmers, hot cider, hot cups of noodles, gloves, winter coats, sleeping bags, and blankets out to those who need them most.”

You can share your photos of the storm here.

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

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.