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.
The National Weather Service has issued a "Small Craft Advisory" for our area beginning at 6:00pm this evening until 6:00am tomorrow morning for south winds 15-25 knots.
SR 20 North Cascades Highway between milepost 170 and 177 remains closed (appx. 20 miles west of Winthrop between Silver Star and Early Winters) **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.
SR-547 will be reduced to one lane between Limestone Road (MP 3.17) and Frost Road (MP 5.38) today (July 15th) and Monday, July 19th for pavement repairs between the hours of 8:00am and 4:00pm and alternating both directions of traffic through a single lane of travel.
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.
Another day of below average temperatures! Highs around the county will top out in the low to mid 70s with lows dropping down into the mid-50s tonight. There will be decreasing clouds as the day goes on. There is still a chance for a shower here and there around the county today and tonight but that has gone from a chance to a slight chance to maybe. If your travels take you to Newhalem (you won't be able to get much farther because of the road closure noted above) you may actually find it cold; the high will be 59 degrees. That's a 50 degree difference from where we were just two weeks ago. There will be some gusty winds around today as well from a southerly direction. Generally, it will range between 5-15 mph but there could be some gusts to 20 mph or even a little higher. Tomorrow we can expect clearing skies with the temperatures a little warmer and then a little warmer yet on Sunday. The temperatures in the Sumas area could reach the 80 degree mark again by Monday. Still, that's very close to average for this time of year. The rest of us will be a few degrees cooler with mostly clear skies from Sunday through Tuesday.
**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 with no likelihood of flooding; expect them to continue to flow steady right about where they are now.
Varying degrees of onshore flow will continue into the first part of next week. High pressure is centered well offshore but extends toward the coastal waters and lower pressure is east of the Cascades. Winds. Today: S wind 5-15 knots. Wind waves 2' or less. A slight chance of showers in the afternoon. Tonight: SW wind 5-15 knots easing to 10 knots after midnight. Wind waves 2' or less. A slight chance of showers. Tomorrow: S wind to 10 knots becoming W in the afternoon. Wind waves 1' or less. A slight chance of showers. Tomorrow Night: SW wind 5-15 knots. Wind waves 2' or less. Sunday: S wind 5-15 knots becoming SW in the afternoon. Wind waves 2' or less. Sunday Night: SW wind 10-20 knots becoming S 15-25 knots after midnight. Wind waves 2-4'. (Note. If the winds hold to this velocity, expect a "Small Craft Advisory" to be issued).
Emergency Management Tips and Reminders
As we enter into the summer months temperatures will be on the rise and vegetation will begin to dry out and with that comes the increased risk of wildland fires. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with your local jurisdictions restrictions and 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
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.