City staff are responding to weather-related needs and safety concerns as excessive rain and wind causes flooding, downed trees, and other impacts citywide. Community members are urged to avoid floodwaters, obey street closure signs, and follow other safety tips listed at the end of this message.
Impacts on storm drainage and sewer systems
- Continuing historic rainfall levels places a heavy load on Bellingham’s storm drainage and sanitary sewer system. It may lead to sewerage flowing up out of the manholes. This is unusual, occurring when the system becomes pressurized due to excessive flow and can be damaging.
- Flooded storm drains are a hazard. The City’s stormwater drainage system discharges to various creeks. When the ground is saturated and lots of rain is falling, creeks are at capacity and the stormwater cannot discharge. The system then overtops the catch basins and spills into the streets causing flooding.
- The City’s sewer systems also have very high flow due to flooding, in some cases releasing untreated sewage. We have reports of this occurring in several low-lying areas. It is important to avoid this standing water. If there is contact, immediately wash hands and clothing. Do not drink this water. Promptly clean and disinfect any flooded building, vehicle or other indoor areas.
- With more than 4.5 inches of rain in 36 hours (measured from midnight Nov. 14 at the Post Point wastewater treatment facility), sewer pipes in the street, Post Point, and pumping stations are at capacity. The maximum capacity of the Post Point plant is 73 million gallons per day (mgd). Typically in November the treatment plant sees 15-20 million gallons per day. On Nov. 14, flows to Post Point reached the peak plant capacity (73mgd) and remain at that level. Meanwhile the large pumping stations on Roeder and Cornwall Avenue have reached maximum capacity. As a result, the overflow structure at C Street was activated to discharge wastewater directly to Bellingham Bay to prevent overwhelming the pumping systems and treatment plant. This overflow is authorized in the permit in extreme circumstances. The C Street overflow was last operated in 2009.
- City road closure information can be found on the City website at Road Closure Information – City of Bellingham
- City arborists are responding to numerous downed trees in parks and trails. People are encouraged to avoid wooded areas, flooded creeks, streams and ponds, and bridges crossing trails. Extent of damage to parks, trails and open spaces is not yet known.
- Radar and forecasts followed by City staff indicates rain should taper off Monday afternoon. Creek levels and flooding in low lying area will take time to dissipate due to the high volumes and will remain hazardous areas to be avoided.
Record-setting rainfall and windy conditions are causing impacts citywide and conditions are expected to continue to be difficult. The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory for our region, including Bellingham, effective through 7 p.m. tonight (Monday, Nov. 15, 2021). See details on the National Weather Service website.
City crews from multiple departments have been responding since the weekend including barricading flooded streets, clearing blocked storm drains, monitoring parks, sewer services, lake and stream levels, and removing downed trees from parks, trails and roadways.
Due to the magnitude of this weather emergency and the volume of calls coming in, the City is not able respond to individual concerns about flooding on private property or to provide sandbags for private property owners. Sandbags should be available at hardware or construction supply stores and sand may be purchased at gravel companies.
- Call 911 for flood-related emergencies.
- To report flooding, downed trees, or other weather-related issues in Bellingham streets, please use SeeClickFix or phone (360) 778-7700.
- Additional updates will be shared as new information becomes available, via news releases and City social media sites.
- Avoid unnecessary trips.
- Obey street closure signs and do not drive around barricades.
- Do not enter streets or intersections if you see water over the road, even if the street is not signed or barricaded.
- Avoid contact with floodwater and standing water, which may be contaminated.
- Stay away from wooded areas, such as parks and trails, due to high winds that will continue to topple trees and drop branches.
- Stay away from flooded creeks, as the water is rushing swiftly and currents are extremely strong.
- Stay away from trail bridges crossing creeks or streams, as they could be undermined by floodwaters.