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City officials urge residents to stay off roads after significant snow in Whatcom County

WTA stopped bus service at noon; widespread closures reported

Junabelle turns to the camera with a snowball in hand and fully dressed in warm winter clothes as other children collect snow nearby.
Junabelle, right, rolls a snowball to build a snowman with Bella and Zach on Wednesday, Jan. 17 in downtown Bellingham. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Bellingham city officials are urging residents to stay off the roads and limit unnecessary travel after heavy snow blanketed the area.

Bellingham almost certainly broke the snowfall record for Jan. 17, set in 1970 — although records aren’t kept the same now.

The record from 54 years ago, measured at Bellingham International Airport, was 2.7 inches. The airport no longer takes official snow measurements, National Weather Service meteorologist Logan Howard said, but an official observer on Wednesday reported 5 inches of snow three miles south of Bellingham.

The highest official snowfall total in Whatcom County Wednesday was 9.4 inches in Blaine. Ferndale saw 9 inches of snow Wednesday, while Custer reported 8.5 inches.

Challenging road conditions are expected to extend into Thursday morning, officials said in a Facebook post.

“We will continue to plow priority streets and respond to urgent issues, such as vehicle accidents, around the clock. Parks restrooms that were open will close early today and Cornwall Memorial Park is closed due to impassable roads and falling tree limbs,” the post stated.

Whatcom Transportation Authority ended all bus service at noon today as snow continued in Whatcom County. 

“If you left home by bus this morning, we’ll work to return you home. If you’re not able to catch a bus home by noon today, please call us at 360-676-7433,” WTA posted to X, formerly Twitter.

WTA announced Wednesday afternoon it would resume service at normal times Thursday morning. Some buses will be on detours, and some specialized services will not be available. Check the WTA website for details.

A winter storm warning is in effect until 4 p.m. this afternoon, Jan. 17. Some CDN staff members report between 9–10 inches on the ground at their Birch Bay homes.

While drier conditions will prevail overnight, Bellingham has a chance for more snow, or a mix of rain and snow, on Thursday, weather service meteorologist Jacob DeFlitch said. The latest forecast only calls for a half inch of new snow or less on Thursday.

With wet roads Thursday possibly refreezing early Friday morning, driving conditions may remain treacherous through the remainder of the workweek, weather service meteorologist Dev McMillian said Wednesday afternoon.

Caffe Adagio surrounded by trees covered in snow boasts an open sign as snow falls.
Caffe Adagio boasts an open sign as snow falls Wednesday morning. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

School district closures Wednesday included Bellingham, Blaine, Ferndale, Lummi, Lynden, Lynden Christian, Meridian, Mount Baker and Nooksack Valley. Athletic and after-school events are also canceled. 

Just after 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Bellingham Public Schools Superintendent Greg Baker announced schools would be closed again on Thursday.

Western Washington University’s campus is closed today and no in-person activities or classes will be available. Remote classes will still occur. Only essential employees are required on campus.

The Whatcom Community College campus is closed but online classes will run as scheduled. Bellingham Technical College and Northwest Indian College also closed.

SanitaryService Company (SSC) suspended operations for Wednesday afternoon.

PeaceHealth announced several closures Wednesday. Emergency departments remain open. PeaceHealth Grabow Therapy and Wellness Center closes at 3 p.m. PeaceHealth Clinics at Cordata South Building (4465 Cordata Pkwy.) and PeaceHealth Same Day Care Clinic at Medical Office Plaza (3015 Squalicum Pkwy., Ste. 104) close at 4 p.m., and PeaceHealth Same Day Care Clinic at Cordata Main (4545 Cordata Pkwy.) will close at 5 p.m. The Grabow center will also be closed Thursday.  

Flight operations at Bellingham International Airport faced challenges.

A Cascadia Daily News reporter with a morning flight said his plane’s ramp was stuck in the snow and some passengers missed connections. 

Heavy snow falls on a plane parked next to the airport as the ground is covered by snow.
Travelers are facing some delays at Bellingham International Airport as snow and freezing rain hit the Bellingham area on Wednesday, Jan. 17. (Isaac Stone Simonelli/Cascadia Daily News)

All Whatcom County Library System locations are closed, include today’s bookmobile stop in Birch Bay and WCLS’s Administrative Services building on Northwest Drive, according to a press release. All branches of Bellingham Public Library are also closed today, as well as all events and programming. Holds, due dates and pick-ups will be extended by three days, according to an email.

County health department offices are closed, as are the Whatcom Museum campuses, including Old City Hall, Lightcatcher and Syre Education Center.

Bellingham City Hall is open, but residents are encouraged to go online for services such as utility billing.

The Pickford Film Center canceled two evening showings and said customers holding tickets would get refunds, according to an email.

Information about emergency severe weather shelters is available from Whatcom County.

County road crews began clearing roads around the clock starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, a county news release said. The county website provides a map showing which roads get the highest priority for snow removal.

The City of Bellingham said city crews responded to snow and freezing rain through the night, targeting priority streets. 

Will Lord, 22, rides a snow skate down Chestnut Street wearing a bright red winter vest.
Will Lord, 22, rides a snow skate down Chestnut Street. (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)

Whatcom County’s severe weather shelter at 810 N State St. will be open during the day today through 8 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 for any guest who spent the night at the shelter last night, and plans to stay tonight. If people choose to leave, spots will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, the health department said in a Facebook post.

The City of Bellingham, Opportunity Council and Lighthouse Mission Ministries opened a daytime warming shelter at 1013 W. Holly St at 10:30 a.m. Staffed by Homeless Outreach Team members, it will be open until 4 p.m., according to a City of Bellingham Facebook post.

Mt. Baker Ski Area officials reported “pristine” powder conditions Wednesday afternoon with 11 inches of new snow, bringing the base at Heather Meadows to 77 inches by 3:30 p.m. 

Good skiing will continue Thursday, according to the ski area’s Wednesday snow report, so “tomorrow is another chance at glory.”

This story will be updated.

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