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Whatcom County crews stay prepared as more snow is forecast overnight Wednesday

Here’s what is making those stripes on Bellingham’s frozen streets

A de-icing truck drives down Bellingham's Fraser Street spraying lines of de-icing agent Feb. 6, 2019. The mixture, which includes beet juice, is environmentally friendly and creates a barrier between snow and ice and the pavement for 5-7 days.
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A de-icing truck drives down Bellingham's Fraser Street spraying lines of de-icing agent Feb. 6, 2019. The mixture, which includes beet juice, is environmentally friendly and creates a barrier between snow and ice and the pavement for 5-7 days.

Even though most of lowland Whatcom County hasn’t seen significant snowfall in nearly two weeks, the wintertime work of road crews is far from over.

But more snow is possible Wednesday night and Thursday morning, forecasters said.

City, county and state workers have been on the streets, sweeping away sand that was used for traction and in some cases spreading de-icer as overnight temperatures drop below freezing during February’s persistent cold snap.

“Right now it is too cold at night to street sweep, because we have to use water to keep the dust down and the sweepers would freeze up or make ice on the roads,” said Amy Cloud, spokeswoman for the Bellingham Public Works Department.

“So, instead our night crew put down de-icer, and tonight we’ll be working on areas of specific concern, in order to be prepared in case we get a little snow on Wednesday,” Cloud said in an email.

Wednesday night temperatures will drop into the 20s, with rain and snow showers possible through Thursday, the National Weather Service said online.

Accumulations of 1 to 2 inches are possible near sea level.

High temperatures will be near 40 degrees.

Whatcom County and state Department of Transportation crews watch the weather forecasts and apply de-icer if it’s necessary, officials said.

That de-icing solution not only helps deter ice, but it makes roads easier to plow if it does snow, Dan Larsen, Streets Division supervisor, told The Bellingham Herald in early February.

Gina Miller, assistant superintendent of maintenance and operations for the Whatcom County Public Works Department, said county officials haven’t sent de-icing trucks out for the past few days because it’s been so dry that frost wasn’t expected.

During winter, county officials assess the overnight weather situation in a daily afternoon briefing, Miller said.

“Winter isn’t over, so we’re not so focused on cleanup. We’re just trying to stay prepared,” she said.

In rural areas, county road crews use sweepers that don’t need water, Miller said.

But the sand still has to come off the road, said Andrea Petrich, WSDOT spokeswoman.

“When there is ice on the road, we use sand for traction,” Petrich said. “When the ice is gone, it becomes a slippery surface on its own.”

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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