Bellamy Pailthorp | KNKX

Bellamy Pailthorp

Environment Reporter

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat from the Seattle offices of KNKX Public Radio News, where she has worked since 1999. She also hosts and produces the weekly segment, The Weather With Cliff Mass, which airs every Friday. She holds a Masters in journalism from New York's Columbia University, where she completed the Knight-Bagehot fellowship in business reporting in 2006 mid-career during her stint on KNKX’s Business and Labor Beat from 2000-2012.

From 1989-98 she lived in Berlin, Germany freelancing for NPR and working as a bi-lingual producer for Deutsche Welle TV after receiving a Fulbright scholarship in 1989 for a project on theater studies and communist history. She holds a Bachelors’ degree in German language and literature from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. (Yes, she is fluent in German.)

She strives to tell memorable stories about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Character-driven narratives of exploration and innovation excite her. 

Outside work, she practices yoga, walks half marathons with friends, backpacks with her husband and extended family, reads and watches fiction with nieces, enjoys tasting new foods and admiring all kinds of animals -- especially her two house cats, who often remind her she should spend more time sitting on the couch with them.

Ways to Connect

Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Washington has faced and met unprecedented demand for food assistance. The economic crisis brought on by the new coronavirus caused the number of people in Washington seeking food assistance to double overnight, starting in early March.

It’s now almost 2 million, according to a new report from the state’s largest independent hunger relief agency, Northwest Harvest.

A view from Seattle on May13, 2020.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

After a string of warm and sunny days, residents of Western Washington were bracing for the effects of an upper level disturbance coming up from California. The weekend forecast calls for significant rain and possible thunderstorms, with temperatures dropping into the mid-60s.

A racoon spotted by one of the cameras in the Grit City Carnivore Project in Tacoma on May 5th, 2020.
Courtesy of the Grit City Carnivore Project, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, and UW Tacoma.

The slowdown of daily life under stay-at-home orders because of the coronavirus has many of us feeling more connected to nature. We hear more birdsong in the mornings. The air seems cleaner. Perhaps we’re seeing more wildlife in the parks as we take walks in our neighborhoods. But the change of pace hasn’t necessarily benefitted urban wildlife.

courtesy Northshore Utility District

Local utility districts have been warning for some time of issues with so-called "flushable" wet wipes. Despite what the labels on many packages say, they are much too durable to be flushed. If sent down the loo, they damage pipes, pumps and entire sewer systems.

A tree is embedded in the ground with Mount St. Helens in the background as seen from the Hummocks Trail, Monday, May 18, 2020
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

Hitting the hiking trail and spending a night at the theater are two pastimes many people in the Pacific Northwest enjoy. But they don’t often do so simultaneously.

A new festival of short plays, called “Finding Trails,” aims to bring these disparate worlds together.

Mount St. Helen's erupts on July 22, 1980 in Washington State.
JACK SMITH / The Associated Press

“An improving trend” is in store this Memorial Day weekend. The clouds, rain and cool temperatures we’ve been experiencing over the past several days will yield to something a little less cloudy. You can expect dry conditions in most places and it will warm up considerably, to as high as 70 degrees on Monday, says KNKX Weather expert Cliff Mass.

But it will still be pretty cloudy.

In this May 15, 2019 photo, the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River is seen from the air near Colfax, Washington. The dams are blamed for reducing salmon numbers on the Snake and Columbia river systems.
Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Salmon need cold water to survive. Dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers are making the water too hot, in some places by as much as 5 degrees.

Now, after a drawn-out lawsuit and direction from the state of Washington, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has released plan to change that.  

A view of Hobuck Beach Resort during the shutdown in Neah Bay. Tourism is prohibited under a shelter-in-place order from the Makah tribal council. It was recently extended through June 30.
Courtesy of TJ Green

The Makah Tribe was the first community in the state to shut down and has isolated its small population since March 16.

Its geography, with only one road in and out of the community near Neah Bay, has allowed it to keep close tabs on travel to and from the reservation, which is located at the far northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula. Officers at a checkpoint keep tabs on all travel; non-residents are not allowed in.

The strategy has worked so far. The tribe has no reported cases of COVID-19. And the Makah tribal council just extended the order until June 30. 

A view "from Seattle with love" on May 14, 2020.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

After a heat wave that left many of us dreaming of summer, more typical spring weather is back in the greater Puget Sound region. That means a chance of rain pretty much every day and temperatures in the 60s, along with clouds and sun breaks.  

It also means the summer outlook for water supplies, stream flows and wildfires are looking normal to favorable, despite a scary dry spell in April.

In this April 30, 2020, photo, a sign reads "Stop COVID-19 Coronavirus together" at the new Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.. The casino is owned by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and has not yet announced a reopening date.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

As the Stillaguamish Tribe reopens its Angel of the Winds Casino in Arlington on Wednesday afternoon, it becomes the first Western Washington tribe to do so since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Twenty-two tribes operate 29 casinos on their lands throughout the state.

As sovereign nations, tribes are not subject to the stay-at-home orders from Gov. Jay Inslee. They also depend on income from gaming to directly fund many essential government services.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Temperatures around the Puget Sound region were shooting up Friday into the mid-to-upper 70s, after an already warm week. And the forecast for Mother’s Day weekend promises temperatures in the low 80s. It almost feels like summer.

But KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says this kind of heat wave in mid- to late May is not that unusual for the region.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

With unemployment rates soaring, the state Legislature has just extended a moratorium on utility shut-offs for non-payment, through the end of this month. A coalition of environmental, labor and social justice groups say it’s not enough.  

Paula Frier / The Associated Press

Most state public lands will reopen Tuesday as Gov. Jay Inslee’s order to ease restrictions on outdoor recreation takes effect. But not Washington’s coastal beaches.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

As May begins, the weather continues to offer that typical grab bag of conditions that is typical for spring in the Northwest: plenty of clouds, along with showers, sunbreaks, even possible thunderstorms. And often, forecasts predict the probability of these phenomena: a 10 percent chance of rain, say — or 50 percent chance.

That sounds plausible, but it turns out most people don’t know what that actually means.

Emergency food boxes are filled by members of the Oklahoma Air National Guard at the Regional Food Bank Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Oklahoma City.
Sue Ogrocki / The Associated Press

The WA Food Fund is facing an uphill battle, as it nears its deadline to raise millions of dollars for food relief. Gov. Jay Inslee launched the effort in early April to raise money to fight hunger caused by the novel coronavirus.

Seattle City Light is going through a detailed federal process over the next five years, to meet regulations to keep operating the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

Seattle City Light has started the process of relicensing three large dams in the North Cascades that supply the utility with about a third of its power.  

The utility will go through a detailed federal process over the next five years, to meet regulations to keep operating the 100-year-old Skagit River Hydroelectric Project. The current license was enacted in 1995 and expires on April 30, 2025.

Deception Pass State Park
Geoffrey Redick / KNKX

Gov. Jay Inslee has turned his proverbial dial another notch toward normal. The governor announced Monday afternoon that some recreation may resume across Washington state, including hunting, fishing and golfing. 

“Reconnecting people to nature is the first step in the journey back to normalcy,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. She joined the governor and other state leaders for Monday’s announcement, the latest development in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeanne Clark / Courtesy of SDOT

At the same time that the City of Seattle has been keeping some parks closed because of concerns about COVID-19, it has opened up certain neighborhood streets for pedestrians, cyclists and skaters to get out more and move.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

After a pretty long dry spell, April showers have returned to the Puget Sound region. We’ve entered a typical phase of showers and sun breaks, with lots of instability in the atmosphere that produces dramatic clouds with light blazing through them. 

People wearing a protective face mask as a precaution against the coronavirus walk past a mural of the world in Philadelphia, Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Matt Rourke / The Associated Press

Washington’s broadest coalition of climate activists is using the 50th anniversary of Earth Day to call for a just recovery from COVID-19.

Tacoma's controversial liquefied natural gas facility is among the projects that could be affected by the drop in prices for fossil fuels.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

The impact of the new coronavirus on the global economy has caused prices for fossil fuels to plummet. As everything has slowed down, demand has shrunk to just a fraction of what it was before governments told people to stay home to slow the spread of disease.

Anne Philips at the social distancing dance party outside her house in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood on March 21, 2020.
Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX

You may have heard of the “Seattle Freeze.” It’s a tendency some people say longtime locals have to be cold toward newcomers. And many say the social-distancing measures now necessary because of the coronavirus are making it worse. Out in public, people seem scared to make eye contact with strangers.

A pair of women in one of the city’s neighborhoods recently put on an event designed to warm things up a bit — despite the need to stay at least 6 feet apart from people you don’t live with.

Visitors view a widened passage for salmon to swim up the Middle Fork of the Newaukum River under Middle Fork Road near Chehalis, Wash., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 — an example of restoration work the Quinault say would be undermined by the proposed dam.
Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

“Extinction is not an option.”

That’s the headline on a statement released Thursday by the Quinault Indian Nation, as the tribe formally announced its opposition to a proposed dam on the upper Chehalis River. 

A view of Pike Place Market with Seattle's Elliott Bay on April 15, 2020.
Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

Maybe you felt a spark as you walked over carpeting and touched a doorknob. Or perhaps you noted how arid the soil was when you went out to do some gardening. These are signs of low relative humidity in the air. And Western Washington has experienced extreme levels of it — on several days this past month.

KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says it’s been so dry, he coined a new term for it: "dry storm."

To meet the growing need for emergency food services amid the pandemic, the National Guard has helped Northwest Harvest fill boxes to distribute to people in need. Troops are expected to help at a new Food Lifeline warehouse in SoDo, which opens Monday.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Demand at food banks has already doubled as more people face unemployment in the region or need more meals at home because schools are closed. And the demand is expected to continue climbing.

That has put additional strain on the organizations supplying food banks, as they respond to new conditions amid the coronavirus.

In this file photo, taken Monday, Dec. 22, 2014, garbage collector Anousone Sadettanh reaches for a small residential garbage bin tucked between larger yard waste and recycling bins as he works his pickup route, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press

The stay-at-home order means most of us are safe indoors, where we’re generating a lot more trash and recycling. This increase in residential waste is something Tiffany "TJ" Burger has experienced up close. She drives a recycling truck for Waste Management in Seattle.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

It’s been warm and sunny lately with clear blue skies and great visibility in the Pacific Northwest — ideal for seeing for events like the supermoon Tuesday night. 


Contrast that with Southern California, where a pattern of rain and snow in the mountains has locked in, providing much-needed water for reservoirs, but dampening spirits for some who live there.

This contrast is due to a configuration in the atmosphere called a blocking effect, says KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass. 

 Food Lifeline Hunger Solution Center warehouse in Seattle's South Park neighborhood. Staff are prototyping emergency food boxes that will soon be the primary means for donated food distribution statewide.
Aaron Czyzewski / Food Lifeline

An estimated 1.6 million people are expected to turn to Washington's food banks by the end of this week, to keep from going hungry. That’s about twice as many as normal. Federal aid to address that new need is not expected to be available until July.

So, the state is asking for help raising about $13 million dollars — to keep the shelves stocked and people from going hungry, despite the challenges created by the new coronavirus.

Among the crops at risk are Washington's renowned apples. Some of the crop is dumped when labor shortages prevail.
Shannon Dininny / The Associated Press (file)

Farmworkers are considered an essential part of the food supply system, so they have to stay on the job, even under Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

But many of the people who work the fields or ranches here lack sufficient protection to keep them safe from the coronavirus. Human rights advocates say that needs to change immediately.

Seattle Indian Health Board opened a new COVID19 testing site Thursday at Chief Seattle Club! "This is our testing team! This is what #dreamteam looks like!" wrote Esther Lucero, chief executive officer of the Seattle Indian Health Board on Facebook.
Courtesy of Esther Lucero

After weeks of waiting for a response from the federal government, the Seattle Indian Health Board says it finally received a shipment of personal protective equipment — from a small business.

Like most companies these days, Eighth Generation has had to cut back and cancel many orders because of the coronavirus. But that didn’t stop the retail company from messaging Esther Lucero two weeks ago. The founder and CEO, Louie Gong, told her he wanted to leverage his contacts with manufacturers overseas to help get the agency critical supplies of personal protective gear.