Dangerous frost set to follow Whatcom’s snowy Christmas

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Whatcom’s White Christmas remains firmly in the cards, according to the National Weather Service on Thursday, but a dangerous post-holiday freeze will likely put the holiday spirit on ice.

“Much colder temperatures and the potential for snow on the plains remain possible over the weekend,” the National Weather Service said in its weather briefing Thursday morning (December 23). “Fraser Outflow is redeveloping Friday and persists next week.”

The outing will likely bring “the coldest air of the season” throughout the New Year, the briefing continued.

“The cold air from Canada will gradually spread southward from late Friday and will have a noticeable impact on the region early next week,” the National Weather Service reported. “By Monday, highs will likely be below zero with low temperatures falling into teens and 20s. Cold air is increasingly likely to linger into the New Year.

For Bellingham in particular, the weather services predict that high temperatures will most likely drop from 39 on Friday December 24 to 34 on Christmas Day, 22 on Sunday 26 December and 20 on Monday 27 December, before slowly recovering to 27 on Thursday 30 December.

The lows, meanwhile, will drop from 33 Friday to 17 Sunday and only 8 Monday and 9 Tuesday, according to the forecast, although there is a 10% chance that these lows will drop to 0 or negative numbers of the. Monday to Wednesday.

“The very cold temperatures will impact vulnerable populations such as the homeless, pets and those without adequate access to heating,” the National Weather Service said. “Exposed pipes can be damaged by freezing. Sensitive crops / plants can be killed.

Although conditions were likely dry earlier in the week, forecasts show that humidity could return at the end of the week as cold air is still in place, which could lead to more snow on the plains, said the meteorological service.

But what about snow on Christmas Day?

With the Fraser Outflow expected to start developing in Whatcom County on Friday, a rain / snow mix is ​​possible in the afternoon and evening, the weather service said. Snow levels could drop as much as 400 to 800 feet at Whatcom as cooler air enters.

On Christmas Day there can be a rain / snow mixture throughout the day which turns to light snow later in the day.

“Snow amounts are uncertain, but a few inches (1 to 4”) are reasonable at this time, “the briefing said, adding that cold and gusty north / northeast winds will continue to blow in the county. by Whatcom.

White Christmases are rare, but not unheard of in the Pacific Northwest.

According to a tweet from the National Weather Service As of Wednesday, December 23, Seattle experienced a build-up of snowfall over Christmas nine times over the past 127 years (7%), ranging from a high of 1.8 inches of snow in 1909 to a low of 0.1 inches in 1916 Seattle has seen snow accumulation three times since 2000 (14% of which 2000) – 0.4 inch in 2008, 0.9 inch in 2007 and 1.0 inch in 2017.

“The most likely delay for snowfall appears to be SAT Night to SUN Night,” read another tweet from the Weather Service. “BOTTOM LINE: Much of the lowlands could see 3-5 inches of snow in the most likely scenario. “

Bellingham has a 90% chance of seeing an inch or more between 4 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Monday, according to the tweet, while there is a 45% chance of four inches or more.

Prepare for the cold

Extreme cold is the biggest concern coming from the forecast, Whatcom County Sheriff’s Emergency Management Division director John Gargett told the Bellingham Herald in an email, particularly in areas of the county. still battling the impacts of atmospheric storms and November floods.

“The biggest concern is the cold temperatures and we are taking action to ensure that those who have been affected by the flooding and who may not have had a chance to fully insulate their homes or who are in accommodation temporary are aware of the steps to take to prepare for the cold, ”Gargett wrote. “For our temporary accommodation site in Sumas, we have already installed additional heaters.

“We do not expect, subject to power outages, to have additional accommodation needs. “

To help residents prepare for expected freezing temperatures, Gargett pointed to a FEMA winter storm fact sheet, which suggests these steps to take before the weather arrives:

Know the risk of winter storms in the region.

Prepare your home for cold weather with insulation, caulking and weatherstripping.

Pay attention to weather forecasts and warnings of freezing weather and winter storms.

Gather supplies in case you need to be home for several days without power.

Create an emergency supply kit for your car with jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and non-perishable snacks and save your fuel tank. full gasoline.

Learn the signs and treatments for frostbite and hypothermia.

With freezing temperatures just a few days away, this is also a good time to make sure that radiators and other heat sources don’t become a fire hazard.

“The magic number is at least three feet,” Bellingham Fire Marshal Ron Richard told the Herald. “You want to keep combustible materials, such as paper, wood, and plastic, at least as far away from heat sources. It’s a very common thing that we see. Good housekeeping is just good practice. Many fires happen because combustible items are simply too close to a heater or wood stove.

“On top of that we have all the Christmas related articles. Christmas trees and gifts too often approach a source of heat and become a problem.

Once the cold and the snow have arrived, FEMA suggests:

Stay off the road if possible.

Limit the time outdoors.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by using generators and grills outside, away from windows.

Avoid excessive exertion when shoveling snow to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Check the neighbors.

“Most importantly, tell the children to remember that Santa may need an extra cup of hot chocolate! Gargett wrote.

Knowing that the cold weather arrives a few days in advance is important to allow residents to make sure they are well prepared, ”said Dave Parker, Deputy Chief of the Bellingham Fire Department.

“People have the ability to stock up on the food and things they need so they don’t have to go out,” Parker said. “It’s the worst thing to have to go out. “

Protect vulnerable people

The onset of extremely cold weather this weekend could push the limits of Bellingham’s ability to care for its homeless population, even as they have added more shelter space.

“This is when our street outreach efforts take on added importance,” Lighthouse Mission president and CEO in Bellingham, Hans Erchinger-Davis, said in a press release. “In this kind of cold, when base camp fills up, keeping people warm becomes a matter of life and death. “

At this point, no one has been turned down, Erichinger-Davis said in the statement.

The base camp has beds for 200 people, the statement said, and the Lighthouse Mission overflow shelter can accommodate up to 40 additional people.

The Town of Bellingham has announced the opening of a winter shelter for young adults at Civic Stadium in partnership with Northwest Youth Services, which can accommodate 25 adults between the ages of 18 and 24. Once temperatures drop below 32, adults up to 29 will be allowed. seek emergency shelter overnight in Civic.

The Bellingham Fire Department will contact homeless people to advise them of shelter options in town, Parker said, adding “We are prepared for this and any cold weather we get.”

The lighthouse mission outreach team will also check on people living in the settlements, the statement said, and bring them supplies, such as hand warmers, winter clothes, hot coffee and other items. required.

“People on the streets are at risk of frostbite and hypothermia and more,” Erchinger-Davis said in the release, requesting financial, volunteer and continued prayer help.

Preparation for snow

The Washington State Department of Transportation tweeted Wednesday morning that it was ready to face the holiday season.

The town of Bellingham also announced on Wednesday that it was also preparing for the likely cold and snow.

“We are well prepared with vehicles, equipment, sand, brine solution and everything we need to treat our roads with snow ahead of time and clear them if snow accumulates,” said Public works division supervisor Brandon Brubaker said in a statement. “Putting the brine solution on the roads before the snow or ice arrives makes snow removal so much easier and more efficient. “

The city’s seven large sanders and snowplows, as well as two ice-melting trucks, will be used to prepare the city’s streets for ice and snow, by installing de-icers along the road. the six snow roads of the city before time runs out, the statement said. If the weather becomes cold enough and remains dry, the city can also use beet juice to prevent ice formation.

Once there is snow and ice on the roads, teams will use pure salt on the streets of downtown and around Lake Whatcom, the release said, although a sand-salt mixture 4 for 1 is used elsewhere where the sand can be later. swept away.

“We avoid sand in these areas to prevent it from spreading into critical habitats,” Brubaker said.

The city says it will prioritize busy routes and those essential to police, firefighters and the Whatcom Transportation Authority, meaning “some residential streets can be untreated and likely slippery.”

Gargett said Whatcom County Public Works is also prepared for road impacts.

Although he said the county is only expecting about an inch of snow or a little more in Bellingham, “we are expecting 2 to 4” in the Sumas Everson based on Environment Canada and our private weather service. . If we get snow as expected, we as a county are ready to deal with it. “

This story was originally published 23 December 2021 11:29 a.m.

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David Rasbach joined the Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers the latest news. He has been an editor and writer in several Western states since 1994.



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