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

Occasional light rain continued Friday morning as some schools canceled classes for a fifth straight day and Whatcom County residents continued to recover during a break from snow and high winds that have battered the Puget Sound region in a series of storms starting Feb. 3.

Call it #snowmageddon2019, #SnowDay2019 or #Snowpocalypse2019, but students in some school districts have missed seven days of classes and numerous car crashes, fallen trees and thousands of power outages have been blamed on severe weather over the past two weeks.

Temperatures hovered slightly above freezing in Bellingham overnight, and the big, fluffy snowflakes that fell during the Thursday evening commute didn’t stick on the ground.

Rain or showers were in the National Weather Service forecast Friday for Bellingham, with a high temperature above 40.

“Break out the shorts and T-shirts today?!” meteorologists in Seattle said Friday morning on Facebook. “Probably not. But today’s high temps in the mid-40s will be the warmest most of us have felt for nearly 2 weeks.”

Environment Canada was reporting light rain and temperatures slightly above freezing for Abbotsford, B.C., just north of Lynden and Sumas.

Rain was in the forecast for Saturday, followed by sunny skies on Sunday and cooler, with temperatures in the mid- to upper 30s.

Sunny skies should continue into Presidents Day, but a new storm carried the possibility of more snow for Tuesday, both U.S. and Canadian weather services said.

Main roads were clear and wet Thursday as a slow thaw began and public works crews turned their attention to secondary streets, which were covered in compact snow and ice.

“It has been quiet. No road issues to report,” the county’s What-Comm 911 dispatch center reported Friday morning via Facebook Messenger.

Kelly O’Byrne-todd had no trouble heading to work on Interstate 5 before 5 a.m. Friday.

“I just drove from Bellingham to Blaine and the freeway is fine, bare and wet,” O’Byrne-todd said on Facebook. “The side streets are still a mess.”

Bellingham Public Schools and Lummi Nation announced classes are canceled for Friday.

Northwest Indian College also canceled Friday classes.

Lynden and Lynden Christian schools were open Friday with a two-hour delay and buses on snow routes.

Other Whatcom County school districts and colleges had long-planned days off on Friday, or were open as usual.

Garbage and recycling hauler Sanitary Services Co. canceled its Friday collection in Sudden Valley in a Facebook message that cited unsafe conditions.

Many streets in the private homeowners association are steep and remain unplowed or were covered in compact snow and ice.

Elsewhere, SSC customers were warned of potential service delays.

Bellingham’s Department of Public Works was turning its attention toward plowing side streets because main roads are clear, said department spokeswoman Amy Cloud.

“Compact snow and ice is expected to linger on roadways, especially in shaded areas,” Cloud said in an email Thursday. “Overnight freezing is expected as winter weather continues. (The) possibility of rapid snowmelt leading to high runoff and flooding is diminishing.”

Cloud said that officials were keeping an eye on the forecast and preparing for the possibility of more snow.

In the meantime, the city was using skidloaders and dump trucks to clear mountains of snow that piled up downtown.

St. Joseph Hospital was operating all week with an established emergency plan, said spokeswoman Hilary Andrade.

“This included arranging for transportation and accommodations for caregivers to ensure safe staffing levels; arranging for transportation for discharging patients to get them home safely; upholding a continual state of readiness to address any concerns or potential issues that arose; and maintaining safe physical grounds of the hospital,” Andrade said Friday in an email.

What-Comm reported a slight rise in 911 calls for police and fire response around the county, said Wallace Kost, program specialist with the Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

No cancellations or delays were reported Friday at Bellingham airport.

Whatcom Transportation Authority reported detours on a few routes but tweeted that many of buses were now running without chains and could travel faster than 25 mph.

Puget Sound Energy was reporting no power outages in Whatcom County, and fewer than 500 customers were without electricity across its entire Western Washington service area — including the Seattle area, which was hit hard by heavy snowfall and outages earlier this week.

Washington state, Whatcom County, Lynden and Bellingham all have issued emergency proclamations that allow special actions for storm-related expenses outside the normal governmental approval process and could let state and local agencies receive federal disaster-relief funds.

Shelters and warming sites were opened for homeless people, and Bellingham Schools served nearly 700 free meals at locations around Bellingham on Thursday.

Bellingham City Council and the Emergency Services Council scheduled a special meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the continued unseasonably cold weather.

Areas of lowland Whatcom County have 6 inches to more than a foot of snow on the ground as unseasonably cold temperatures continue.

It’s the worst stretch of cold weather since the winter of 2008-2009, with four record-low temperatures in less than two weeks as the average high in Bellingham hovered at 13 degrees below normal.

Mt. Baker Ski Area was open Friday with normal midweek operations with snow falling and 5 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours, according to its website.

Ski area spokeswoman Amy Trowbridge said 46 inches of snow had fallen at the ski area over the past four days, for a February total of 89 inches.

Through Thursday, the 2018-2019 season snowfall was 420 inches, Trowbridge said via email.

Avalanche danger was high in the Mount Baker wildness backcountry, the Northwest Avalanche Center reported online.

Light snow was forecast for the North Cascades through Saturday night, with accumulations of 1 to 3 inches.

Mount Baker Highway had compact snow and ice at the 4,250-foot level about noon Friday, with traction tires required and chains for vehicles above 10,000 pounds.

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.