Incident Hotline

Incident Hotline - Friday, January 18, 2019  

Advisories and Warnings:

 A “Small Craft Advisory” is in effect until 6:00pm this evening.

 A “Gale Warning” is in effect from 6:00pm this evening to 6:00am Saturday 

A “Coastal Flood Watch is in effect from late tonight through Saturday afternoon due to the high astronomical tides, the southwesterly winds and passing storm system. Sandy Point and Birch Bay could be affected.

 A “Wind Advisory” is in effect from 6:00pm this evening to 6:00am Saturday. Southerly winds 20-35 mph with gusts to 45 mph are possible.

  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 Whatcom County Proclamation of Emergency remains in effect.

Whatcom County Weather

The weather will gradually deteriorate over the day as we see increasing showers and the wind develop.  Temperatures will be close to 50 degrees for highs and the lows overnight will remain in the mid to upper 40s.  Tomorrow and tomorrow night will almost be a repeat of today although the winds will die down during the day. Sunday and Sunday night will be mostly cloudy with highs in the 40s and lows in the low to mid 30s.  Then we’re back into the rain showers on Monday.  Temperatures overall will continue to be moderate.  Higher elevations will  be 10-15 degrees colder and there will be snow or a rain/snow combination at the Mount Baker Ski Resort area.  Tonight could see 7-11 inches of snow.  This weather also has implications for driving.  High-profile vehicles could experience periods of buffeting or being pushed from side to side.  Likewise, the change elevation will also see the possibility of slush on the roadways if you’re headed towards Mount Baker Ski Resort.

The weather system we’ll be dealing with for the next couple of days will drop enough moisture to cause the Nooksack River to rise a little bit, but still remain well below flood stage, so there are no concerns there.  However, always be prepared for locally heavy rains to cause small streams to rise rapidly; sometime they can flood over the road which can catch you off guard.  If you see water flowing across the road, do not go through it; turn around and find a different route.  Remember, it only takes six inches of flowing water to know a person off their feet and 12-18 inches of water can move large vehicles like SUVs.

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

Statement On Combined Coastal Weather for January 18-19 – The National Weather Service has issued a Gale Warning for Whatcom County waters beginning this afternoon and good until tomorrow morning. There is a Small Craft Advisory in place for today as well. Environment Canada has already issued a Gale Warning for the Strait of Georgia south of Nanaimo. Winds will strengthen today with winds rising from 15 to 25 knots to 30 to 40 knots overnight. Both the National Weather Service and Environment Canada see the winds diminishing through the day on Saturday. The morning tide at 0500 for Cherry Point is 9.5 feet, however the wind and storm surge projections predict an effective height of 10.6 feet. The afternoon tide at 1400 for Cherry Point is 9.1 feet, however the wind and storm surge projections predict an effective height of 10.0 feet. The Gale Warning from the National Weather Service predicts wind waves building overnight to 2-5 feet. However, there is a possibility that wind driven waves on top of the tide could impact roads, particularly in Birch Bay, Blaine, Sandy Point and Point Roberts. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management, along with Whatcom County Public Works will be monitoring conditions during the high tides at 0500 and 1400 Saturday. Although unlikely, it is possible that Birch Bay Drive could be closed during the high tide and forecast winds as the road bed is exposed and additional damage potentially could occur.

  1. The National Weather Service in Seattle has issued the Gale Warning...which is in effect until 0600 tomorrow, Saturday, January 19, 2019. Wind waves will increase 2-5 feet overnight before decreasing Saturday morning. Southwest winds 25 to 35 knots rising to 30 to 40 knots overnight. Winds will diminish to southwest 25 to 35 knots Saturday.
  2. Environment Canada Has Issued a Gale Warning for the Strait of Georgia South of Nanaimo. Their forecast is Wind southerly 15 to 25 knots increasing to southeast 25 to 35 late this afternoon then becoming southerly 20 to 30 overnight. Wind diminishing to southwest 10 to 20 near noon Saturday then backing to southeast 10 to 20 Saturday evening.
  3. Tidal Affects - Coastal communities in Whatcom County may have some effects during the high tides at 0500 January 19. Given the tide height, wind driven waves during these tides could possibly produce some impacts on roads and beaches.
  4. Coastal Flood Watch – The National Weather Service has issued a Coastal Flood Watch for Whatcom County.

Drivers and persons on the beach should be cautious along low lying coastal roads and beaches during the high tide particularly in Birch Bay, Sandy Point, Lummi Island and Point Roberts areas.

 Emergency Preparedness

Don’t assume weather is the same across the county.  Lower elevations near the coast can see rain, while in the foothills, you can run into a rain/snow mixture, and the higher elevations can be all snow.  These changes can occur within short distances or small changes in elevation. Even if the skies are clear, temperatures rise and fall through the freezing level regularly which means frost can form along the sides of the roads, bridges and overpasses. And, water pooling on the roads can turn into ice making driving hazardous.  Buildings, mountains, and trees can block the sun from hitting the roads 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’re headed to the ski area or backcountry make sure you’re aware of tree well and deep snow dangers along with the current avalanche conditions.  They can change rapidly.

As today is Friday, this hotline will not be updated until Tuesday due to the weekend and Martin Luther King day on Monday.  

 Remember, think safety and be prepared! 

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