How Whatcom dairies made it through the winter storm

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Farmers are among the hardest hit by the recent storm that hit Whatcom County. 

Dillon Honcoop spoke to two local dairy farmers, sisters Leea Rainey Heeringa and Lynne Rainey Wheeler, about the challenges they faced last week. 

Heeringa, who lives in Sumas, said one of the biggest problems they had was the wind and cold. 

“(The wind) was probably steady 35-40 mph,” she said. “And then a little bit of snow. It was about 15-18 degrees during the day. It was nasty.”

Just because the weather is nasty doesn’t mean they can stop farming. Heeringa said she is in charge of feeding the calves and had to bundle up in many layers to combat the cold. 

“I was wearing two pairs of long underwear, sweatpants, insulated bibs, three sweatshirts, two hats, and a neck warmer, and gloves,” she said. “You can’t even move because you are trying to stay warm.”

Heeringa said even though it’s hard to move, the calves need to keep warm and get fed and watered. 

Wheeler lives in the South Fork Valley in the Acme area and said they don’t have to deal with the wind as much.

“It’s rare that I look at the week’s forecast and I see temperatures of 10-12 degrees, but that’s what we really faced this week,” she said. “Amen, that we don’t get that wind, but it’s still really challenging. Snow continued to come throughout the week.”

She added that they still have quite a bit of snow up where she farms. 

“And that makes it tricky — travel — it just becomes compact snow and ice everywhere you go,” Wheeler said.

She said their normal chores were taking hours longer because it becomes a lot harder to do after there’s a lot of snow on the ground. 

Heeringa said if they know the storm is coming, they will get their farm ready for the cold. 

“You make sure that you have a lot of supplies, like yours grains — you’re stocked up on grains, you make sure you have sawdust — even though you can’t really do sawdust when the wind is blowing 40 mph,” Heeringa said. “You make sure that you have everything you that you could possibly need.”

She said in previous storms they have lost power for 11 days and was thankful for being prepared with a tractor generator. 

Heeringa added that in previous storms the roads were a lot worse, and was grateful the roads stayed decent this time.

Wheeler told Dillon about how 90 heifers that got loose during the storm. You can listen to her talk about it on the audio clip above.