Clark County sees rain, no more from monster NW storm

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As much of the Northwest wrestled a host of weather extremes — snow, ice, freezing rain, landslides and major flooding among them — Clark County escaped relatively unscathed Thursday. Instead, the area returned to a less spectacular January trend:

Rain. Plenty of it, but not much else.

Vancouver’s rainfall totals were impressive, with more than 1.6 inches falling at Pearson Field by 10 p.m. The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for Clark County, but high water was mostly limited to localized street flooding and some streams. Salmon Creek was reported to be out of its banks in places, according to the weather service.

Water on the Interstate 205 bridge contributed to at least one accident late Thursday morning. Clark Public Utilities restored a power outage that briefly left more than 1,300 customers in the dark, said utility spokeswoman Erica Erland. The outage was caused by a tree limb hitting all three cables of a power line, she said.

As of 10:20 p.m., after tireless, round-the-clock work by utility crews, only two outages remained, affecting 19 customers, all in north county, according to the utility’s Outages Map at http://www.clarkpublicutilities.com/yourhome/outages/outages-map.

Those impacts paled in comparison to what other parts of the region saw Thursday. To the north, continuing cold, freezing rain and ice crippled the Puget Sound area. To the south, heavier rains caused major flooding in Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley.

Dozens of downed trees prompted Amtrak to suspend passenger rail service between Portland and Seattle on Thursday morning. Crews were working to clear the rail corridor, but there was no schedule for reopening Amtrak service, said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas.

About 5 p.m. Thursday, at nightfall, BNSF halted freight traffic between Centralia and Tacoma because of freezing rain building up on trees and pulling them down, Melonas said.

“Seventy-five trees of significant size, up to 50 feet long, have fallen in this corridor,” he said.

About 150 BNSF track personnel had been using chain saws to cut the trees up, and the trees then were dragged off the tracks. But when darkness fell Thursday, and with trees still falling, officials deemed that kind of work too dangerous.

“We will not put our employees in danger,” Melonas said.

The work will resume at daylight Friday and BNSF hopes to open the line for freight trains by late Friday afternoon, Melonas said.

Officials consider the weather between Centralia and Seattle “extremely rare,” he added.

No injuries or derailments have been reported on that corridor, he said.