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The original item was published from 12/29/2020 10:03:43 AM to 1/7/2021 12:00:04 AM.

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Sheriff - Emergency Management Daily Briefing

Posted on: December 29, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Tuesday, December 29, 2020 Emergency Management Daily Briefing for Whatcom County

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.

Active Incidents

Train Derailment Update.  Portal Way remains closed in Custer, WA.  It is unknown when the roads will be reopened; please use alternate routes. Updates to this information will be made known as they are made available.  Incident Number 20-4465 has been assigned to this event.

The U.S. and Canada have extended an order closing their shared border to nonessential traffic until at least January 21, 2021. This includes both vehicular and boating between the countries.


The “Proclamation of Emergency” signed by the Whatcom County Executive concerning COVID-19 remains in effect. Information about Whatcom County’s response to COVID-19 is available at the Joint Information Center’s COVID-19 website.

First of all, there are a number of power outages around the county with the greatest number of people affected in the Sudden Valley area.  The cause is under investigation and there is no restoration time posted at this time.

Advisories, Watches and Warnings

A “Gale warning” has been issued by the NWS for the Northern Inland Waters including the San Juan Islands beginning at 6:00 pm today until Wednesday at 6:00pm.  Southeast winds 25-35 knots are possible during this period.  Environment Canada has also issued a “Gale Warning” for the Strait of Georgia-South of Nanaimo.
A “Winter Weather Advisory” is in effect from 12:00 am tomorrow-Wednesday-morning until 4:00am Thursday morning above 2500 feet. Total snow accumulations of 10-16 inches for the Cascade passes and up to two feet above 4500 feet are possible.

Weather Around Whatcom County

Whatcom County Inland Weather

The weather for Whatcom County will steadily degrade over the day as the next storm system enters our area.  We can expect lighter winds this morning but gradually picking up later today.  Gusts could be in the 20-30 mph range by tomorrow from the south/southeast. Rain intensity will also increase from showers tonight to a steady rain for tomorrow. High temperatures will range from the upper 30s in Newhalem to low to mid-40s in the lowlands.  Lows will drop down to the mid30s to around 40 degrees.  While the heavier snow is predicted above 2500 feet, be ready for snow at lower elevations with less accumulations but challenging driving conditions nevertheless. A couple of degrees cooler than forecast and we can be dealing with snow in the lower areas of the county. That’s winter!

Rivers and Streams

The Nooksack River level will see a couple of spike over the next week. The first will begin tomorrow and last about 24 hours; no issues are expected. The second will begin Sunday and last into Monday. Because the river will still be draining water from the first storm, this second one will add to the river level.  No flooding is expected, but the river level will be much closer to full. And small streams will likely have fast moving water in them as well. Be careful. 

Whatcom County Coastal Weather

For the Strait and Inland Coastal Waters off Whatcom County southeast winds 5-15 knots will give way to 25-35 knots winds after midnight and continue throughout the day.  Wind waves of 4-6 feet should be expected. The wind will shift a little more to the south later tomorrow at 15-25 knots so a “Small Craft Advisory” is likely to be issued for that period of time. East winds of 5-15 knots are forecast for Thursday.






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Emergency Management Tips and Reminders


Everyone in Washington State is directed to wear a face covering while at any indoor public space and any outdoor public space where you may be within 6 feet of someone who does not live with you. You can find more info about face coverings and other protective actions here and here.

King Tides

A King Tide is a non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides. Tides are long-period waves that roll around the planet as the ocean is "pulled" back and forth by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun as these bodies interact with the Earth in their monthly and yearly orbits. Higher than normal tides typically occur during a new or full moon and when the Moon is at its perigee, or during specific seasons around the country.

In Whatcom County we pay particular attention to King Tides that occur in the late fall / early winter as many times these coincide with, and can be aggravated by, our wind storms.  This has resulted in significant impacts in our coastal communities, such as occurred in Birch Bay and Blaine in December of 2018 when over 5 million dollars in damage was caused by a King Tide and wind storm.  We define a King Tide as a tide of at least 10.1 at Cherry Point (Whatcom Counties official tide station).  Over the next couple months, we will have King Tides on the following days:

Height of Tide
Time of King Tide 

December 30, 2020

10.1 Feet


December 31, 2020

10.2 Feet


January 01, 2021

10.3 Feet


January 02, 2021

10.3 Feet


January 03, 2021

10.2 Feet


January 04 & 05, 2021

10.1 Feet

0951 / 1021

January 12, 2021

10.4 Feet


January 13 & 14, 2021

10.6 Feet

0645 / 0722

January 15, 2020

10.5 Feet


January 16, 2021

10.2 Feet


January 29-February 01, 2021

10.1 Feet

0706 / 0733 / 0800 / 0827

For those who are tide watchers, these are pretty impressive tides but as happened in the 2018 storm, the tides were pushed nearly two feet higher from the storm pressure (called storm surge) and then the west wind added another 3-4 feet of waves.

This briefing line is not updated on weekends unless an incident occurs.

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