The recent blizzard and subsequent cold snap vividly illustrate an important point: Bellingham is incredibly ill-defended when it comes to winter weather.
Yes, Bellingham is largely the recipient of rain, not snow, in the winter months, and much has already been made of the fact that the city doesn’t own a single snowplow.
Maybe that needs to change — if for no other reason than that the city’s businesspeople simply cannot afford to lose a week of business because the city, to which they duly pay their taxes every quarter, doesn’t feel snow and ice removal are effective uses of funding.
One local merchant said his showroom had been a virtual ghost town for more than four days, and a quick look to the street outside his store showed why: a three-inch thick glaze of ice on the major downtown arterial.
When the snow began falling Sunday, and was backed by even colder air afterwards, the writing was on the wall: The city would be shut down until Mother Nature gathered her energy for The Great Thaw.
In the meantime, business owners — at least those who braved the city’s treacherous roads — twiddled their thumbs and watched almost an entire work week of vital pre-holiday shopping time evaporate (unlike the glaze of ice on the streets in front of their storefronts).
Making the city streets safe for traffic through the use of plows, salt trucks and sanding should not be a service we wistfully wish after. To paraphrase a colorful bit of slang, "Snow Happens." So why is the city so woefully unprepared to handle it?
If having the infrastructure on-hand to deal with snowfall is, for whatever reason, an impossibility, then arrangements need to be made to bring in crews to do the job when this type of weather arrives. Figuring who, when, and how much it will cost is the job of City Hall.
Having enough sand and salt on hand to make the Bellingham streets passable should not be a part of a wish list; it should be a given.
A foot of snow should not utterly paralyze a city this size for the better part of a week. The fact that it did shows a lack of preparedness that needs to be corrected before the next big snowfall occurs.
Lastly, a thank you is in order for the city crews that did work tirelessly throughout the storm and afterwards — your efforts are much appreciated.
By Rik Dalvit