Storm saturates Clark County

More than two inches falls in Vancouver; flood advisory issued

By Eric Florip and Paul Suarez

Published:

 
photoA school bus plunges into standing water on Northeast 136th Avenue near Northeast Fourth Street in Vancouver on Tuesday. A strong storm system dumped more than two inches of rain on the city by late afternoon.

(/The Columbian)

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A strong storm system dumped more than two inches of rain on Clark County on Tuesday, causing water to pool on local streets and officials to issue a flood advisory.

More than 1,300 county homes lost power at one point.

The storm system, which stalled over Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon, prompted the National Weather Service to issue an urban and small stream flood advisory that remained in effect for much of the day.

In the 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 2.3 inches of rain was recorded at Vancouver’s Pearson Field. Heavy rain is expected to fall through Wednesday and cause localized flooding.

Reports of localized flooding and standing water came in from around Vancouver, Public Works spokeswoman Loretta Callahan said.

“The rain is coming down heavier and faster than it can be absorbed into the stormwater system or into the ground,” she said. “If you add to that areas where there’s leaves in the street, and stormwater catch basins are getting clogged, that leads to localized flooding and pooling.”

Security personnel at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center blocked off the main entrance to the hospital because of high water on Mill Plain Boulevard, spokesman Ken Cole said. The flooding appears to be caused by leaves and drainage problems, he said.

“When the water gets above 2.5 inches, they do reroute traffic because we don’t want vehicles or ambulances to stall out,” he said.

Hospital staff told Cole that the entrance was only closed once last year, but it may happen more in the coming days due to the rainfall.

A power outage knocked out electricity to more than 1,200 residents near Battle Ground and the surrounding area just after 1 p.m. Combined with earlier, smaller outages, Clark Public Utilities reported 1,315 customers in the dark at one point Tuesday afternoon.

Electricity had been mostly restored across the county by 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, said Clark Public Utilities spokeswoman Erica Erland. While the utility hadn’t determined specific causes of all the outages, all were weather-related — likely due to wind or trees and branches falling on lines.

“We always prioritize our outages with the most people out at a time,” Erland said.

Heavy rains can cause landslides and wreak havoc on Northwest rail lines, but BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas said late Tuesday afternoon that the tracks were clear.

“So far, so good,” Melonas said. “All lines are open, all routes across Washington state.”

The rail company has taken measures to reduce the risk of slides, ditching and contouring slopes, Melonas said. Crews stand ready if slides do become a problem, he said.

If Vancouver residents spot standing water they can’t safely clear, Callahan said to call the Public Works operations line at 696-8177, or 693-9302 after hours and holidays. However, with more than 13,000 street drains in city limits, she said if the drain can be cleared from a curb with a garden rake, residents should try to do it themselves first.

Firefighters responded to several weather-related crashes and traffic problems, but no one appeared to be seriously injured.

Callahan said the city is asking people to slow down to give themselves more time to brake in standing water.

A tree, heavy with wet leaves, was downed in the Fruit Valley neighborhood, but that was cleared by Tuesday afternoon.

The weather service says it’s going to stay wet until at least Friday, when the chance of showers drops to 40 percent. A chance of rain remains through Monday.

Reporter Andrea Damewood contributed to this story.