National Weather Service issues flood warning for Nooksack River in Whatcom County

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for the Nooksack River in Whatcom County after torrential rain fell on fresh snow in the Mount Baker wilderness this week.

Road closures in low-lying areas and flooded fields seemed likely Tuesday and Wednesday as snowmelt flows downstream.

Chastity Swope shared photos and video of the Nooksack River running fast and high under the Everson Bridge on Tuesday morning.

“I’ve been watching the weather app. I work out in Sumas and the Sumas River is high up, too,” Swope said on a community Facebook page.

“We have been watching the river and our fields. We are going to be moving things to higher ground if needed once we notice water coming over the roadway on Main (Street in Everson). I am worried that things will get bad like the previous years,” she told The Bellingham Herald.

Officials from several Whatcom County agencies were monitoring weather forecasts and river conditions Tuesday, said Amy Cloud, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

“As conditions evolve, DEM responds accordingly and communicates updates. If conditions should get worse, we can stage our telecom van — which has public safety radio frequencies — to receive and deliver high-resolution images and video,” Cloud told The Bellingham Herald in an email.

Elizabeth Kosa, director of the Whatcom County Public Works Department, told the County Council that River and Flood Division workers and other personnel were coordinating with emergency officials.

“We have a training run today because of the weather. We pre-deployed sand and sandbags throughout the county,” Kosa told the Public Works and Health Committee on Tuesday.

Current estimates from the Northwest River Forecast Center show the Nooksack River cresting Wednesday at 20 feet in Ferndale, 1 foot below major flood stage.

“Heavy rain is mainly over now but the flood wave continues to make its way downstream and has pushed the Nooksack at North Cedarville (Nugents Corner) above flood stage. At 18 feet, the (Nooksack River) begins overtopping its banks within the city of Ferndale, flooding low-lying areas within the city and low pasture lands along the river from near Ferndale downstream to the mouth,” the National Weather Service said online.

Flooding was also possible in Nugents Corner, where the river was expected to crest at just above flood stage of 146.5 feet.

Flooding was averted at the Saxon Bridge in Acme, where the river’s South Fork crested Tuesday below flood stage of 8 feet.

“At 8 feet, the Nooksack River floodwaters will inundate much of the low farmlands along the river, with some water over roadways, including potentially Highway 9 north of Acme,” the National Weather Service flood warning said.

In addition, a heavy water flow alarm was triggered for the river’s Middle Fork south of Canyon Creek. A similar alarm was triggered for Fishtrap Creek in Lynden.

“Heavy rain will continue in the North and Central Cascades through this afternoon with another 2 to 4 inches of rain on top of what has already fallen,” meteorologist Dan Felton said at the National Weather Service in Seattle.

Every creek and river in Whatcom County was running at record high levels for the date, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Dashboard.

Nearly 5 inches of rain fell in the Mount Baker wilderness from Sunday through 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to National Weather Service data. That’s on top of more than 2 feet of snow that fell Friday and Saturday.

Melting snow and rain will cause the Nooksack River to rise quickly. The same rain-on-snow conditions cause flooding in 2020 and 2021 that caused upward of $200 million in damage and left hundreds homeless in the rural villages of Everson, Nooksack and Sumas.