While residents far south grappled with several inches of snow, Bellingham up north contended with freezing cold that kept many people indoors.
For Whatcom County residents, most scenes of Wednesday’s heavy snowfall were on TV, from the Seattle area. The region near the Canadian border was struck instead by what qualifies as a typical, powerful blast of winter cold that began advancing from British Columbia Tuesday evening, flash-freezing existing snow that had fallen in depths ranging from several inches to a foot or more on Monday night.
The temperature at Bellingham International Airport, north of the city near Bellingham Bay, dropped to the upper teens Tuesday evening, then plunged to 12 degrees during the night. By 10 a.m. Wednesday, the temperature had risen to 15 degrees, but coupled with a northeasterly wind gusting between 25 mph and 39 mph, the wind-chill temperature at the airport registered 5 degrees below zero. By early afternoon, the ambient temperature at the airport was still only 16 degrees.
Flights at Bellingham International, which handles 18 to 28 flights per day, mostly on Alaska and Allegiant airlines, were not affected, aside from some Alaska Airlines shuttle flights arriving late due to delays exiting Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said Carolyn Casey, spokeswoman for the Port of Bellingham.
The airport is equipped with de-icing equipment and snow plows, and personnel are accustomed to strong winds and cold weather, she said.
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Government offices and most businesses in the city of Bellingham, which saw morning temperatures in the teens, but far less wind than other spots in north and northeast Whatcom County, were open Wednesday, although most icy city streets were deserted.
All county public schools were closed, as was Whatcom Community College. Western Washington University operated on a regular schedule, although some commuting students were absent, and some instructors canceled classes and activities on their own.
Bellingham’s Whatcom Transit buses were operating on full schedules, as most main city and county arterials were plowed by early morning and then stayed clear, thanks to snowfall that stayed very light around the region.
“It’s cold, and the northeasterly is keeping it cold,” said Ken Richardson of Whatcom Unified Emergency Management. Snow drifting on rural roads in the northeast part of the county made travel difficult, he said, but most major roads were passable.
The storm was similar to the northeasterly blast that often smacks the county between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Richardson said, noting that it seemed business as usual for local road crews and other responders.
Small power outages were reported in Bellingham and elsewhere in the county, but most homes were brought back online by Puget Sound Energy crews by midday.
Most Bellingham businesses were open, but mostly devoid of customers.
At the normally bustling IHOP on Bakerview Road, a handful of diners who braved the weather and made it in for breakfast were greeted warmly by a hostess who seemed overjoyed to have something to do, and thanked people individually for braving the icy roads.
But those people were few and far between. In a restaurant accustomed to a wait list, one waitress napped with her head on a table in a booth; another relaxed by reading from a Kindle in the foyer.
By midday Wednesday, the focus in the area already was shifting toward a melt-off later in the week.