Last December, a gloopy ooze of lava began extruding out of the summit of La Soufrière, a volcano on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The effusion was slow at first; no one was threatened. Then in late March and early April, the volcano began to emit seismic waves associated with swiftly rising magma. Noxious fumes vigorously vented from the peak.
Fearing a magmatic bomb was imminent, scientists sounded the alarm, and the government ordered a full evacuation of the island’s north on April 8. The next day, the volcano began catastrophically exploding. The evacuation had come just in time: At the time of writing, no lives have been lost.
Perhaps monitoring from space will become the best way to see future phreatic eruptions coming. But so far, no successful long-term forecast of a phreatic eruption has taken place. “Phreatic eruptions are terrifying,” said Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, a volcanologist and seismologist at Western Washington University. “You really don’t know they’re coming.”
The record-breaking heat wave Whatcom County has endured the past few days is now officially the hottest Bellingham has ever seen. And we’re likely not done yet.
As of 3:15 p.m. Monday, June 28, the National Weather Service recorded a temperature of 99 degrees at Bellingham International Airport — three degrees hotter than the previous all-time record of 96 set July 29, 2009.
Add that to the list of records already broken in the past four days.
Wednesday is a big day for Washington.
The state will lift its COVID-19 restrictions on masks, social distancing and capacity limitations, many of which have been in place for more than a year.
As Gov. Jay Inslee’s office spokesperson Tara Lee put it on Monday: “Generally, almost everything is back to normal” as of June 30.
Health department leaders caution that there are still some caveats, including restrictions in place for people who are not vaccinated
Whatcom County saw 16 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend on the Washington State Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard, including seven cases reported on Monday, June 28. One new COVID-related hospitalization was reported, but no new deaths.
Whatcom’s infection rate stood at 79.4, according to the state’s Risk Assessment dashboard Monday, based on the state’s most recent complete epidemiological data between June 7 and 20. It was the first time the county has had an infection rate in the 70s since Nov. 19.
The state’s vaccination report on Monday showed the county has now administered 225,214 vaccine doses and estimated that 69.2% of the county’s residents 16 and older have initiated vaccination, while 62.8% have completed it.
On June 30, Cal Bratt will retire after four decades in the newspaper business.
Ironically, he wasn’t the first Bratt to see his name in the local paper.
“My mother and two youngest brothers were featured in a story that I still have, focused on a recipe she would share,” Bratt recalled recently. The time was March 1969. “I was always aware of the Tribune. Everyone got the Tribune, and everyone read it.”
By always, Bratt means once the family moved from the Midwest to Lynden when he was 13.
“In the back of my mind, I always figured journalism would be my job,” he said. “I always loved working with words, reading, and following current events.”
Working on a second bachelor’s degree, from Western Washington University, in journalism, Bratt started part-time at the Westside Record-Journal in Ferndale, sister paper of the Tribune. He covered city council and sports, and by June 1980 was full-time at the Tribune, in the sports department.
Before COVID, towns such as Blaine, Lynden, Sumas and Bellingham in Whatcom County, and Port Angeles in Clallam County, enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with the roughly 3 million consumers in greater Vancouver, Victoria and other Southern British Columbia communities.
But that bit of globalization ground to a halt in March 2020, when the pandemic shut the border to nonessential travelers.
Many products are considerably cheaper in the U.S. than in Canada, thanks in part to differences in the countries’ tax regimes and business practices. Gasoline, for example, can be around $1.25 less per gallon than in Canada, while milk can be around $2 less for a gallon, depending on the exchange rate, merchants say.
Incoming Canadians can also find retailers, such as Trader Joe’s, that aren’t in Canada, and a larger variety of products, says Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute, or BPRI, at Western Washington University.
Another big draw: Whereas fast-growing southern British Columbia is often heavily congested, “when you drive to Whatcom County, you’re not dealing with traffic,” Trautman says.
Those attractions turned much of northern Washington into a Canadian shopping zone.
Data on the number of Whatcom County residents who have initiated vaccination reported by the Washington State Department of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention differs by nearly 20,000 people.
Vaccination completions in the county also are off by 13.2%, with the state reporting 119,305 and the CDC reporting 135,112.
The state’s COVID dashboard recognizes the difference in the data on the statewide level, and attributed it to the CDC getting vaccination data directly from the U.S. Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Bureau of Prisons and a few other sources that do not funnel data directly to the Department of Health.
But could those sources possibly explain a difference of nearly 20,000 people in Whatcom County (or nearly 9% of our total population)?
The temperatures this weekend in parts of Whatcom County are forecast to reach triple digits, but the county’s COVID-19 infection rate is no longer that high.
For the first time in 216 days, Whatcom County’s two-week total of new confirmed cases per 100,000 residents has dropped below 100. Whatcom’s infection rate stood at 95.6, according to the state’s Risk Assessment dashboard Thursday, June 24, based on the state’s most recent complete epidemiological data between June 3 and 16.
The last time Whatcom saw an infection rate in double digits was Nov. 20 — nearly a month before the first COVID vaccine was administered in the county. Since then, the rate has climbed to as high as 530 on Jan. 26.
Whatcom County also saw 10 new confirmed COVID cases reported on the Washington State Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard Thursday, but no new related hospitalizations or deaths.
Whatcom County saw its smallest reported increase in new COVID-19 cases on the Washington State Department of Health’s coronavirus dashboard Wednesday, June 23, with just six more confirmed cases reported. The county also had three COVID-related hospitalizations reported, but no deaths.
The six new cases reported Wednesday were the smallest increase the county has seen since it had just two reported on April 19. Whatcom’s daily average of reported cases decreased to 10.9 over the past week, and that was down from the 12.9 average from one week earlier (June 10-16).
Whatcom County saw its number of confirmed COVID-19 variant cases increase by 120 last week, according to the latest SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing and Variants report by the Washington State Department of Health released Wednesday, but Whatcom still has not had any confirmed cases of the delta variant.
While one of Whatcom County’s seven school district regions saw its COVID-19 infection rate increase last week, two others saw their rates drop to their lowest levels since October.
The region covered by the Blaine School District was the only region to see its rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks increase, when the Whatcom County Health Department released its newest location data on Tuesday, June 22. Despite that slight increase, Blaine remained the region with the second-lowest infection rate in the county.
The lowest rate belonged to Bellingham, which dropped to its lowest mark since Oct. 12. The Ferndale region also saw its best infect rate since Oct. 27.
Overall, the county saw the two-week infection rates in all seven regions dip below 200 cases per 100,000 residents for the first time since the week before Thanksgiving. Four regions had rates lower than 100.