Whatcom and Skagit counties are gearing up for a series of powerful weather events, with forecasters predicting heavy rain in the lowlands and snow in the mountains as a winter storm warning went into effect early Friday morning, Dec. 1, for all of the Cascade zones.
Forecasters have put a flood watch for the Nooksack and Skagit rivers into effect, beginning Saturday evening, Dec. 2, and ending Wednesday night, Dec. 6, stating that “excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations.”
A wind advisory for the two counties will be in effect from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday morning. Winds are expected to reach 40 mph, with gusts up to 55 mph, potentially blowing down tree limbs and causing power outages.
The area has already witnessed a strong onset of rain as part of this active weather pattern.
“Rain is expected over the interior throughout the remainder of the day, with significant snowfall starting in the mountains,” according to a National Weather Service report. “Snow levels largely remain around 2,000 to 2,500 this morning, with 2 to 3 feet of snow possible, especially at the passes.”
Avalanche risk will be increasing through the weekend as snow levels rise and rainfall piles on top. Traveling through the passes will be difficult during this time.
The weather situation will intensify from Saturday afternoon as the first of two atmospheric rivers hits the region, bringing a substantial amount of moisture. Widespread, moderate rainfall is expected by Sunday.
An even stronger second atmospheric river is set to arrive Monday or Tuesday, bringing much higher snow levels, heavier rainfall and potential river flooding.
Liquid accumulation through Wednesday of next week is predicted to range from 3 to 7 inches over the lowlands and upwards of 12 inches in the Cascades.
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management will be monitoring Nooksack River gauges, and will update and share information publicly via WhatcomReady.org and the Whatcom Ready Facebook page.
The Skagit River is expected to crest above 32 feet on Tuesday night, Dec. 5, which is slightly above flood stage.
Low-lying areas including Francis and Swan roads near Mount Vernon, and Concrete Sauk Valley Road in Concrete, are at greatest risk for flooding, Skagit County Communications Manager Jenn Rogers said.
Outreach teams from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office and the health department are contacting unhoused individuals in high risk areas, Rogers said.
Skagit County officials will also keep an eye on the Samish River in the north part of the county, which is also highly flood-prone.
Low river and lake levels currently work in the community’s favor, Rogers said.
“We have good flood storage available to us because it has been so dry lately,” she said.
Residents are urged to stay updated on the latest weather advisories and take necessary precautions during this period of intense weather conditions.
This story may be updated as more information becomes available.
Ralph Schwartz contributed to the reporting of this story.