City crews clearing icy streets, advise caution

Changing weather affects snow removal process

January 14, 2020 - by Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach

City of Bellingham ​crews have been working shifts around the clock since Sunday to keep arterial streets as clear as possible for police, emergency vehicles, school district and Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) busses. 

By the numbers:  over the last 48 hours – using five large sanders and plows and three small trucks with sanders and plows – Public Works placed approximately 300 tons of salt, 200 tons of sand and 16,000 gallons of salt brine over more than 700 lane miles of the main snow response routes.

On Monday, after several passes through the City's six snow routes, crews branched out to hilly residential streets. However, once snow resumes – as it did Tuesday morning and is projected to throughout the week – crews are recalled from residential side streets to the main arterials on the snow routes. As snow began to fall Tuesday morning, crews encountered “frozen and slippery” streets.

Depending on conditions, each route can take anywhere from a few hours to an entire shift to cover. Typically, one route can be covered twice during a shift.  Residents may report their street conditions to the City via (360) 778-7700 or; however, it could take a day (once snow has stopped falling) before crews reach side streets.  Also, as City crews cannot clear streets (which means emergency vehicles response is affected) if cars are left abandoned in the roadway. They should be as far to the side as possible. 

If driving is difficult, WTA may be an option for some​, with routes all over Bellingham and throughout Whatcom County. Phone (360) 676-7433 or visit for bus routes and schedule information.

To plan ahead, residents can learn of current and forecast weather conditions  by visiting the National Weather Service website at or Environment Canada,  As much as 3-6 inches of new snow has been forecast for the next 24 hours.

Also good to know:

  • Once snow and ice are already on the streets, crews use only salt in the downtown corridor and around Lake Whatcom – avoiding sand there to keep silt and dirt out of our stormwater basins and the lake.
  • The City's snow routes – which cover much of the City's 300 lane miles of streets – are arterials and some secondary arterials, highly traveled routes and those essential for emergency vehicles, Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) and Bellingham schools.
  • We use a balance of salt to sand as sand doesn't break down ice, it just sits on top and while salt will break down the ice, it is ineffective once temperatures drop down into the mid-teens.
  • The City does not, has not, and will not use magnesium chloride.  It's not good for fish or streams.  Our products are all-natural: salt, sand and water, beet juice.
  • Deicing routes found here and  winter weather protocols are located here
  • For winter weather driving tips and information, check Washington State Department of Transportation's winter driving page.
  • Tempting as it may be to turn lightly used hilly streets into sled parks, it makes those routes icier and potentially less safe and harder to clear.

Media Contact

​Amy Cloud, Communications and Outreach
City of Bellingham - Public Works or
(360) 778-7912

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