Possible freezing rain, high winds in weekend forecast

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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Clark County may not be struggling beneath a thick coat of ice and snow like the Puget Sound area, but a strong system has still soaked the region this week with more than 3 inches of rain, as well as high wind and freezing rain advisories for the weekend.

The good news: The heaviest rainfall is out of the way. The bad news: Overall, it will be rain, rain and more rain next week. Welcome to late January.

“You’ll see pretty steady rainfall, but not as potent,” said Liana Ramirez, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Portland. “It’s going to be consistent rain, but it’s going to be a lot lighter.”

As of Friday afternoon, 3.4 inches of rain had fallen at Vancouver’s Pearson Airport over the past three days. While the weather service issued a flood watch for Clark County, there were no known areas of river flooding in the region, save for some streets and streams. The Columbia River was at about 11 feet, below the 16-foot flooding stage.

Other parts of the state attempted to rebound from heavy snow. Rail service remained closed between Portland and Seattle on Friday, as crews worked to clear some 200 trees that had fallen on or near the tracks this week, said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas. Freight access was expected to resume Friday evening, he said, with Amtrak passenger rail service getting back on line Saturday.

Most trees were brought down by snow and “heavy icing,” Melonas said. Conditions were particularly dicey between Centralia and Tacoma, he added. Other rail corridors in the region remained open this week despite the wintry blast.

In Clark County, it was wet — and cold. After a midweek warm-up, temperatures dipped back into the 30s on Friday, which, combined with the wind, made things feel especially nasty. Winds from the Columbia River Gorge pulled a considerable amount of cool air into the Vancouver-Portland metro area, Ramirez said, prompting a freezing rain advisory Friday night for areas east of Interstate 205.

The advisory calls for less than 0.10 of an inch of ice to accumulate, with the especially slick spots on bridges, overpasses and sidewalks.

With the ice, it will be blustery, the weather service said. Expect south winds of 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph Saturday morning. Downed trees and power outages are also possible.

Temperatures are expected to warm a bit next week, Ramirez said. “Warm” as in the mid- to upper 40s, with cooler temperatures in the high 30s at night.

Then, Clark County can expect another system of rain to move into the area by the middle of next week.

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts; www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker; laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516. Reporter Eric Florip contributed to this report.