Incident Hotline

Today is Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

Advisories and Warning.

FLOOD WATCH:  A flood watch is in effect from Thursday morning through Saturday morning.  Heavy rain is forecast for the northern Cascades Wednesday night and Thursday could lead to excessive runoff.  A flood watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current forecasts.

 HIGH WIND WATCH:  A high wind watch in now in effect from Thursday morning through Thursday evening.  Winds from the southeast 25-35 mph with gusts to 55 mph may occur.  There may be periods where winds reach 40 mph along with gusts to 60 mph with the best chance of that occurring on Thursday afternoon

 WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY: Now in effect from 6:00pm this evening to 4:00am Thursday above 3500 feet.  Snow is expected above 2500 feet, with higher accumulations above 3500 feet.  Total snow accumulations of six to eleven inches are possible.  Winds gusting as high as 40 mph after midnight may result in very low visibility at times.  This includes the Cascade mountains in Whatcom County and the Mount Baker Ski Area.

 SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY:  Remains in effect until 6:00pm this evening

 GALE WARNING:  In effect from 7:00pm this evening to 10:00pm Thursday. Winds from the southeast 15-25 knots will increase to 25-40 knots tonight.

Whatcom County Storm Update (From December 20th Storm):

  1. Birch Bay Drive north of Harborview has a suffered significant damage. Whatcom County Public Works has opened one lane northbound only between Harborview and Shintaffer with a 10 miles per hour speed limit. Southbound traffic from Birch Bay Village and Birch Point must use Shintaffer to Lincoln / Anderson roads for ingress and egress. Persons driving South from Shintaffer to Harborview may be subject to citation and a fine as the southbound lane of Birch Bay Drive is closed. There is no date for repairs to Birch Bay Drive between Harborview and Shintaffer at this time.
  2. Birch Bay Drive south of Harborview - Whatcom County Public Works has opened Birch Bay Drive south of Harborview, both north and south, however the shoulders remain closed due to damage and debris. Pedestrians and bicyclists should use EXTREME caution in this area until cleanup is complete.
  3. The State of Washington Public Assistance Program Initial Damage Assessment is underway to determine the extent of the damages which occurred to public facilities (to include county, cities, special purpose districts, private non-profits, federally recognized tribal governments)  throughout the state. The Tentative Incident Period is December 10-25, 2018 -- Severe Winter Storm, High Winds, Flooding, Landslides, Mudslides, and a Tornado. 

  4. Completed Preliminary Damage Assessment forms are due back into the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management via email (wcsodem@co.whatcom.wa.us) by close of business January 9th, so that we can tabulate all damages Whatcom County wide and submit a consolidated report to the State by January 11th.

  5. Individuals and businesses should report damage to the Whatcom Unified Emergency Coordination Center Damage Assessment line (360) 788-5311. When residents and businesses call, they will be routed to voice mail, where they are being asked to please leave a message with their name, phone number, address, and the best time to return a call. Calls will be returned starting January 2, 2019 in order to complete the assessment. This Assessment is not a guarantee of financial assistance for losses.

  6. Whatcom County Planning and Community Development has established a Storm Damage Repair Permitting Process for those who have experienced damage to their home or business. If residents and businesses have sustained damage from the storm, they are asked to take photos to document the damage and verify that repairs are necessary. Then they should bring their photos into the Permit Center. Permit Center staff will use our Building Services Emergency Repair Permit policy to assess your situation and determine if you will be eligible to use this expedited process. More information can be found at http://whatcomcounty.us/358/Planning-Development-Services.

  7. Whatcom County Public Works continues clean-up and response County wide.

  8. The Whatcom County Proclamation of Emergency remains in effect.

Whatcom County Weather

Where you find yourself in the county will determine what kind of precipitation you will encounter over the next several days.  All of us should expect to encounter some wind which could be gusty even reaching into the 50 mph range.  For the lower elevations of the county including the coastline, plan on rain and rain showers for the next several days.  As you move higher in elevation places like NewHalem and the ski area will see either a rain/snow mixture or all snow.  High temperatures will be in the low 40s for lower areas (Maple Falls to the coastline) and mid 30s or colder at the higher elevations.  With the clouds and rain, low temperatures tonight will cool down just a few degrees.  The winter weather advisory kicks in at 6:00pm tonight.  Winds will develop overnight out of the southeast; tomorrow afternoon appears when the strongest winds will occur.  Wind speeds of 25-35 mph are expected with gusts to 55 mph or even a little stronger.  The flood watch also takes effect tomorrow.  Temperatures for tomorrow will be a little warmer with highs around 50 for lower areas of the county dropping down into the mid to upper 30s for places like the ski area.  .

With regards to rivers and streams, we will definitely see a spike in the levels with the passing of this system especially late on Thursday into Friday.  So far the river approaches, but does not exceed flood stage; however, if more rain falls than predicted, it could change the picture.  Local heavy rains, could cause small streams to rise and fall rapidly.  Be alert and remember, do not try to cross water flowing across roads.  It only takes six inches of flowing water to knock you off your feet and 12-18 inches of flowing water can move large vehicles such as SUVs.  

Coastal Weather for Lummi Nation, Birch Bay, Lummi Island, Strait of Georgia, Pt. Roberts, Bellingham, and Blaine

For a Coastal Whatcom County the small craft advisory is in effect through this afternoon and a gale warning will go into effect from this evening through Thursday evening.  Winds over the next couple of days will be from a southeasterly direction first in the 15-25 knot range today and then increasing to 20-30 knots and then again 30-40 knots after midnight.  Wind waves will increase from their current 2-4 feet to 5-7 feet.  Winds will continue from the south on Thursday night easing to 20-30 knots with 3-5 foot wind waves.  Winds may become slightly stronger early Friday before easing to 15-25 knots in the afternoon.  4-6 foot waves will scale back to 2-4 foot waves in the afternoon.

Emergency Preparedness

Winter is upon us now; expect all types of driving conditions including rain, mixtures of rain and snow, all snow, or ice.  And, they can occur within short distances or small changes in elevation. Also, temperatures will rise and fall through the freezing mark regularly which means frost can form along the sides of the roads, bridges and overpasses. Also, any water pooling on the roads can turn into ice which can spell bad news when driving.  Buildings, mountains, and trees can block the sun from hitting the roadways which can allow frost to form.  Be vigilant for all of these conditions when driving.

Make sure your winter survival kit is in your car.  Some items include extra blanket, flashlight, extra batteries, food, and water among others.  The Washington State Department of Transportation website has an example – see “Winter Driving-Emergency Car Kit” on their website.

Make sure you keep your gas tank at least half-full during winter months.  And should you find yourself stranded and running your car to keep warm, always make sure the exhaust is clear of obstacles and open your window to keep carbon monoxide from building up inside your vehicle.

Wind and low temperatures spell wind chill which can be especially dangerous.  Always dress appropriately and have some dry clothes in your vehicle if you get wet.

If you plan on doing any snowboarding or skiing, please practice tree well, and deep snow safety actions.  Assume all trees have hazardous tree wells.  Also, check with the Northwest Avalanche Center if you're traveling or going into the backcountry for current avalanche conditions.

Remember, think safety and be prepared!

Contact: Wallace Kost, 360.788.5305, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management