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January 28, 2020 | 12:19pm
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Ferndale road closures due to flooding likely later today

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FERNDALE, Wash. — Drivers should be prepared to take alternate routes if their evening commute takes them on roads vulnerable to river flooding.

Heavy mountain rains yesterday and today are driving up the Nooksack River level and the current forecast is for it to crest near the 20-foot mark, inside the official minor flood stage range of 18 to 20.5 feet.

Impacts to low-lying roads near the river typically begin when the river reaches the 15-foot mark with closures following.

According to the river level forecast at Ferndale, the timing of the river level increases are as follows.

Nooksack River
Level at Ferndale
Est. TimeExpected Impacts
(based on historical observations)
15 Feet10am Tues.Water and debris from river flooding can be expected over low-lying roads near the river and streams flowing from the river.
16 Feet12pm Tues.Some road closures are likely (e.g. Marine Drive, Ferndale Road, Barrett/Paradise Roads) and the possibility of closing Slater Road increases.
18 Feet4pm Tues.Official Minor Flood Stage achieved – River has begun flooding VanderYacht Park and pasture areas along the river.
19 Feet9pm Tues.Hovander Homestead Park and nearby Tennant Lake Interpretive Center and Fragrance Garden will likely be closed.
19.76 Feet8am Weds.Crest level – There will be potential for impacts in some low-lying residential areas and roads – namely along Washington Street, Portal Way and 2nd Avenue near VanderYacht Park.
18 Feet11pm Weds.River is receding. Some flood water will be trapped beyond the river banks and remain until absorbed into the ground.
15 Feet8am Thurs.Potential for reopening some closed roads begins. Timing will vary. Drivers are advised to continue obeying “Road Closed” signs.
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River level forecasts can change frequently and can be monitored at the MFN Nooksack River level page.

Drivers should be alert to the possibility of water and debris on low-lying roads, avoid driving over flooded roads and obey road closed signs.

Pete Harksell of Pete’s Auto Repair advises drivers that it does not take much to disable a vehicle’s engine by driving through even shallow flood water. At a minimum, flood water splashed into an engine compartment can cause a short in the electrical system, including the ignition, that can cause the engine to die and not be able to be restarted immediately. Another worse possibility results from water coming into the engine in through air intakes. Harksell says this is a very expensive repair if the engine can be repaired at all. In addition, Harksell noted, driving over flooded roads soaks the vehicle’s brakes and can be expected to impact the driver’s ability to brake safely.

WCSO armored personnel vehicle  alongside SAR watercraft as both prepared to effect a rescue of a motorist stranded in floodwaters behind "Road Closed" signs on Ferndale Road (November 24, 2017). Photo: My Ferndale News
WCSO armored personnel vehicle alongside SAR watercraft as both prepared to effect a rescue of a motorist (visible in the distance on the right) stranded in floodwaters behind “Road Closed” signs on Ferndale Road (November 24, 2017). Photo: My Ferndale News

Drivers who go around “Road Closed” signs create a safety concern according to first responders. In addition to risking damage to their vehicle and serious injury to themselves and rescue crews, drivers face a fine for violating a road closure.

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Under Washington law, RCW 47.48.040, the “Road Closed” signs mark a location beyond which all private and commercial vehicle traffic is restricted. Only law enforcement, emergency services or official road crew vehicles are allowed onto closed roads.

Whatcom County Sheriff's Office Deputy Kevin McFadden talks with a driver pulled over on a road closed due to flooding (February 17, 2017). Photo: My Ferndale News
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Kevin McFadden talks with a driver pulled over on a road closed due to flooding (February 17, 2017). Photo: My Ferndale News

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1 COMMENT

  1. Over a decade ago I lived in San Antonio. Every time there was enough rain to cause flooding and road closures I would read about people who chose to disregard the “Road Closed” signs, tried to cross and had their car swept away, sometimes in less than a foot of water. Most of these people did not survive. My dental hygienist lost her parents that way. Their car (and bodies) were not recovered until many days later. Please think of your loved ones and don’t take a chance.

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