Winter Weather Preparation FAQ

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about how the City prepares for winter weather events.

Absolutely not. We constantly monitor vetted, professional weather information sources to plan well in advance. Before the cold comes, we have prepared city arterials with treatment to make them easier to clear and ice less likely to form. We have a map of routes that we follow to sand, salt, deice and snowplow city streets, starting with arterials and major connectors and working our way into residential neighborhoods.

Yes. We have seven larger sander/plows and two deicing trucks. These are kept in use 24/7 while there is immediate need.

If you live on an arterial, your street is among the first to be plowed. Secondary arterials and connectors come next, then – if there is time and resources – we move into residential neighborhoods. It’s important to know that there must be space for our vehicle to safely navigate a street; if there are cars abandoned in the roadway, we probably will not be able to get to that street.

View a map showing the areas we cover. Priority for plowing is based on safety concerns, focusing on major hazard areas, main arterials, and some secondary arterials, including routes that are essential for Police, Fire, Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA) buses, and Bellingham schools. Within this priority system, routes typically cleared first include Alabama Street, Meridian Street, Cornwall Avenue, Old Fairhaven Parkway, and the downtown Central Business District. Side streets are addressed only after the priority routes are completely plowed, salted and sanded. 

Call (360) 778-7700 and we will dispatch maintenance staff to shut off the water. We can shut off the water at the meter. We have someone on standby 24 hours a day who can do this.

In extreme weather conditions, it’s all hands on deck. Public Works staff that cannot perform their usual duties due to the conditions are redeployed for snow patrol. Those with the licensing and experience drive the large snowplows; others may run the smaller plows (trucks with blades or deicing units attached) and perform related tasks. We do not need to increase staffing, although we may need to adjust shifts – such as having road crews on a 12-on/12-off hourly shift, in order to keep up with the need.

Typically we do. During larger storms, we may briefly run low on sand but can usually re-stock on necessary supplies and bridge the gap with some sand from Whatcom County supplies, such as during the December 2021/January 2022 winter weather.

Certainly the hilly neighborhoods have challenges, and the areas north of town including by the airport and Cordata Parkway to Kline have experienced snow drifts.

Winter weather can be dangerous. Please take precautions to protect yourself and our community. These tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help you prepare for winter storms and cold temperatures.

Read more about preparing for winter weather, including preventing frozen pipes at home, on our Winter Weather Preparation webpage.