COVID-19 - The “Proclamation of Emergency” signed by the Whatcom County Executive concerning COVID-19 remains in effect.
The U.S. and Canada have extended an order closing their shared border to nonessential traffic until at least July 21, 2021 although there are some changes impacting American citizen travel beginning August 9th. See below for more information.
SR 20 North Cascades Highway is closed approximately 6 miles west of Winthrop due to firefighting activities. **AS OF MONDAY, JULY 12 AT 10AM: ROAD CLOSED to all traffic due to fire activity.** There is no estimated time for reopening of the road and this closure is expected to remain in place through the weekend. See WSDOT for updates. The Cedar Creek Fire situation report can be found on the WA DNR website under wildfires.
The Whatcom County Fire Marshal has issued a Stage 2 Burn Ban for unincorporated Whatcom County; it will remain in effect until further notice . For more information, see the following site for more information about this announcement: https://www.whatcomcounty.us/381/Fire-Marshal
Governor Inslee has issued an Emergency Proclamation titled "Wildfires-Burn Ban". This burn ban "imposes a temporary outdoor burn ban by prohibiting all outdoor and agricultural burning in all 39 Washington Counties until noon on Thursday September 30, 2021." Of equal importance is another phrase in the proclamation: "Nothing in this order supersedes more restrictive provision of the counties, municipalities, fire districts, other political subdivision, or public or private landowners." If you review Whatcom County's Stage 2 Burn Ban you will see it IS more restrictive. Additionally, national park service, US Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, individual fire districts, etc. have their own set of rules which you must review and comply with.
American citizens and permanent residents of the United States, who currently reside in the U.S. and who qualify as fully vaccinated travellers, will be able to enter Canada for discretionary travel starting August 9. Details can be obtained by visiting https://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/services/covid/menu-eng.html
State Route 9: Contractor crews working on behalf of the Washington State Department of Transportation to construct a new fish passage at Landingstrip Creek along SR 9 in Acme will close SR 9 between Maleng Road and Rothenbuhler Road for 96-hours beginning at 7 a.m. Monday, July 26 until 7 a.m. Friday, July 30. A 68-mile detour will be utilized to move traffic around the work zone and drivers should plan ahead and expect to add up to 90 minutes of travel time to their route. See WSDOT website for additional information.
Warmer temperatures should not come as a surprise as we would normally encounter these going into August. The dry conditions are what makes this season dangerous. Our temperaures are going to rise above normal this week. While we'll start out the week in the low to mid-70s in Bellingham will end up being around 80 degrees by Friday. Point Roberts will heat up to the mid to upper 70s and Sumas can expect temperatures going from the low to mid-80s today to around 90 by Friday. We'll continue to see a southerly breeze in the 5-15 mph ranges with Point Roberts seeing some gusts this evening near 20mph or a little stronger.
While we're experiencing all this nice weather, we cannot take our eye off the fire danger which remains high. Before engaging in any outdoor work (e.g. cutting wood, using a weed eater, welding, etc.) or outdoor activities, think through what might create sparks or enough heat to ignite dry fuels. Where you park and the surface you park your vehicle (e.g. concrete, asphalt or grass) plays a huge role in possible ignition. You make the difference. Thank you.
**As we enter these warm to hot summer days, it is absolutely crucial you keep the following in mind if you have small children or pets in your vehicle. It only takes 10 minutes for the temperature to reach 104 degrees if the outside temperature is 85 degrees. In 20 minutes, the temperature will reach 114 degrees. And in 30 minutes, it will be 119 degrees.**
Flows within the rivers and streams of Whatcom County are normal; expect them to continue to flow steady at current levels.
High pressure offshore with thermal low pressure east of the Cascades will result in onshore flow for much of the upcoming week. Westerly pushes down the Strait of Juan de Fuca each afternoon and evening may result in small craft advisory level winds each day this week. Winds. Today: S wind 5-15 knots easing to 10 knots in the afternoon. Wind waves 2' or less. Tonight: SW wind 5-15 knots becoming 10-20 knots after midnight. Wind waves 1-3'. Tomorrow: W wind 10--20 knots becoming NW t5-15 knots in the afternoon. Wind waves 1-3'. Tomorrow Night: SW wind 5-15 knots becoming NW 5-15 knots in the afternoon. Wind waves 1-3'.
Emergency Management Tips and Reminders
Fuels are dry with lower humidity and temperatures that can be expected to reach into the 80s and 90s. Know what your local jurisdictions restrictions are concerning recreational fires, barbeques, etc. by checking your local jurisdictions website or contacting your local fire district. For unincorporated Whatcom County residents visit the Whatcom County Fire Marshal's website at https://www.whatcomcounty.us/381/Fire-Marshal.
See Advisories, Watches, and Warnings above for new or updated fire hazard restrictions (e.g. Stage 2 Burn Ban; Governor Inslee Wildfire Emergency Proclamation).
Emergency Management In The Backcountry
With the increased fire danger and currently burning fires, many parks, trails, and recreational areas have been closed or have a large number of restrictions. Before traveling, check ahead to make sure the area you are going to remains open at this time.
There is nothing better than being on a ridge hiking with the sun warming your face. However, it’s also important to remember that in addition to the “normal” first aid emergencies, natural disasters also can have a huge impact on your afternoon or weeklong hiking trip. Earthquakes can cause landslides, rock falls or severe storms. Wildfires can consume thousands of acres in hours. Flash floods and high rivers can cut bridges and trails. The important thing is not to be afraid, but to be prepared. Here are a few tips for anyone going hiking or into the backcountry:
Do Your Research - So many backcountry emergencies and rescues could have been avoided had the individuals just been prepared. When you’re going on a day-hike or a backpacking trip, know the weather forecast, as well as expected temperature highs and temperature lows. Know how long the hike is as well as how much time you think it will take to complete the trip. Have a set “turn around” time, meaning that if you aren’t going to reach a certain point by a set time, turn around and head back, so you’ll have sufficient daylight return safely to camp or the trailhead.
Know where you are going - Have current maps of the area where you’ll be hiking. Don’t do a hike that is above your ability level. Be aware of side trails that may break off your main trail. Stay on the main trail. The majority of hikers that become lost, wind up taking a side trail that branches off the main trail, leading them in the wrong direction. Be familiar where rivers or streams are located, and know what direction they flow. Know the local roads, wildlife, plant life climate, and possible hazards that may be unique to that area. Know how to use and read a compass or GPS.
Observe - While hiking, pause every couple of minutes and take a look around. Turn around and see what thing look like behind you. That way, it should look familiar to you on the way back.
Share your travel plans - ALWAYS tell two or three responsible adults the specific location where you are going, and when you expect to return. Many hikers and backpackers feel that this is unnecessary if they are in a group. It doesn’t matter how large the group is, always tell multiple people. Don’t think that posting your intentions on social media is sufficient.
What if an emergency occurs? – any kind of emergency!
STOP – At the beginning of a wilderness survival emergency, the most important thing you can do is STOP. First, check on the immediate safety of yourself and anyone else that is with you. Next, relax as best you can. Drink some water. Eat a snack. Survival is 85% mental and only 15% physical. STOP.
THINK – Assemble the group. Use your brain to figure out what is really going on. Don’t go anywhere yet. There is no rush. STOP and THINK.
OBSERVE – Assess the immediate situation. What are the weather conditions? Is it going to be dark soon? Where is a good place to take shelter? Inventory everything you have in your pack and pockets, and look around to get a sense of the natural resources nearby. What clothing do you have? How can you improvise with what is available to make it suit your needs? Don’t go anywhere yet. There is no rush. STOP, THINK, and OBSERVE.
PLAN – When you have figured out what your situation really is, the group can put together a plan for what to do next. Build your plan on what you have observed, what you have in the way of equipment, what you can improvise from native materials, and how you can keep yourself safe. STOP, THINK, OBSERVE, PLAN.
Depending on what has happened, perhaps the most important thing is not to panic but STOP, THINK, OBSERVE, and PLAN. And stay where you are unless it is safe and you know the way out. You might need to spend the night which means you need to build or put up your shelter. You may need to use your first aid kit. You need to build a fire. You need to hydrate, possibly find food, and know how to signal.
There are some great resources out there to get trained on Wilderness Survival, Wilderness First Aid, and preparing for your hike – and remember, you need to be prepared just as much for a two hour hike as you are for a two day hike. Here are three local resources (among many great ones):
American Alpine Institute http://www.alpineinstitute.com/catalog/backpacking-and-wilderness-skills/
National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) https://www.nols.edu/en/coursefinder/locations/nols-pacific-northwest/
Alderleaf Wilderness College https://www.wildernesscollege.com/
Information concerning face coverings and other protective actions can be found on the Whatcom County Health Department Website.
These Daily Briefings on Incidents, Advisories, Watches and Warnings, current weather and Emergency Management tips are published Monday through Friday, as well as during times of increased awareness or actual events.