Moisture arrives; snow still possible

Freezing level likely to be about 500 feet during next two days

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

Published:

 

A late-winter weather system arrived on cue Tuesday, but slightly warmer-than-expected afternoon temperatures produced mostly rain showers for the lowest elevations of Clark County.

A few places, including parts of Vancouver, reported snowflakes briefly falling Tuesday afternoon, said Dave Elson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland. The same was true at Portland International Airport, he said.

“It wasn’t much,” Elson said.

Forecasters expected another cold front to move through Tuesday evening, keeping the chance of at least a snow-rain mix alive overnight and into Wednesday morning. But snow accumulation still isn’t likely for low elevations, Elson said. The best chance for a dusting on the ground remains above 500 or 1,000 feet.

The weather service predicted the snow level to hover around 400 feet Tuesday night into early Wednesday. Much of Vancouver sits below 250 feet in elevation. The overnight low in the city was expected to drop to 35 degrees, according to the weather service.

The threat of low-elevation snow will likely linger through Wednesday into Thursday, Elson said. Rain and snow showers are predicted for both days, according to the weather service.

The Tuesday forecast had some local officials preparing for the worst, with Portland-area agencies urging motorists to use caution and be ready for changing conditions.

Meanwhile, the late-winter blast continues to dump heavy snow on the Cascade Mountains. As much as 1 to 2 feet of new snow was expected to pile up in places by Thursday, according to the weather service, with more on the way this weekend. The Washington State Department of Transportation encourages drivers to carry emergency supplies and check conditions before traveling through mountain passes.

If Clark County wakes up to wintry conditions Wednesday, C-Tran has about 50 buses equipped with “insta-chains” to handle slick roads. The system allows drivers to improve traction with the push of a button: lowering an already-fastened set of chains from behind the wheel, allowing them to spin between the tire and road.

The technology keeps the agency from having to manually install old-fashioned chains before buses go out in the morning. C-Tran public affairs director Scott Patterson said buses with insta-chains will likely be put on routes with a better chance of seeing snow to Yacolt or Battle Ground, for example.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com.