Moisture from snowstorm may freeze on roads

Parts of county get covered by surprise New Year's Eve snow

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter , Craig Brown, Columbian Metro Editor and Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith



An unexpected snowfall brushed across the northwest section of the metro area Monday, bringing with it a flurry of accidents and spinouts.

Children and adults home on New Year’s Eve were delighted with the snow, which provided enough for brief bouts of sledding, snowman-building and angel-making.

The snow had mostly tapered by late afternoon, leaving an inch or more of accumulation in some places but only bare ground in others. Below-freezing temperatures were expected to create potentially dangerous road conditions overnight, with snow and moisture already on many roads.

The snow started before 11 a.m. and quickly covered the ground in many areas, including Salmon Creek and Felida. The unexpected accumulation caused localized havoc, including at least two road closures.

Many accidents were reported.

A pickup truck rolled over early Monday afternoon on Interstate 5 northbound at the freeway onramp from 219th Street, the Battle Ground exit. The accident was caused by icy conditions, said Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy, spokesman for Clark County Fire & Rescue. The driver, a man, and his juvenile passenger suffered minor injuries. They were transported to an area hospital as a precaution, Dawdy said.

Several cars also spun out on the Felida bridge on Northwest 36th Avenue at about 1 p.m. The road was closed to remove cars and lay down some sand. Ridgefield’s Pioneer Street was also reported closed at one point due to slick conditions that causes vehicles to spin out.

C-Tran placed its Lincoln, Felida and Salmon Creek buses on snow routes.

Monday’s wintry weather wasn’t all headaches. The shot of snow came as a welcome surprise to many Clark County residents and students who enjoyed the day off. In Hazel Dell, a small hill at Columbia River High School enticed at least one family to try some sledding. Brandon Coiteux watched as his son Ethan, 13, and daughter Kyra, 7, slid down the slope with mixed success. A snowball fight followed.

Coiteux said they’d thought about driving to Larch Mountain for some winter activities Monday. But plans changed when flakes started falling outside their home around 10 a.m., he said.

“We had planned to go up to the snow today, and it came to us,” Coiteux said.

At the Fort Vancouver historic site, Rachel Abbott enjoyed the snow without a coat, hat or gloves. Instead, she wore her wedding dress.

Abbott and her fiance Richard Rhodes were out taking formal pictures before their wedding in Portland later that day. Abbott, who recently moved to Vancouver from Texas, said she had hoped for snow on her wedding day, and got her wish.

Accumulation was hit-and-miss in different parts of the county. Many areas farther north were quickly blanketed with an inch or more. But downtown and parts of east Vancouver, with flakes steadily falling, never saw much of anything stick.

The accumulating snow took many by surprise, apparently including the National Weather Service in Portland, which didn’t forecast the snow until it started falling, and then originally said the snow wouldn’t stick.

The Washington State Department of Transportation had seven plow and de-icing trucks out on local highways Monday afternoon, said spokeswoman Abbi Russell. Two trucks were scheduled to stay out overnight, she said, with additional workers available on call if needed.

Anyone out on the roads should be careful, Russell said.

“Be ready for the conditions, and drive for the conditions,” she said.

The overnight temperature was expected to drop to 27 degrees in Vancouver, according to the weather service. That means icy conditions are likely in places this morning. Freezing fog should hang around into this morning before giving way to a mostly sunny day, forecasters said.

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