Rain vexes county with flooded streets, clogged drains

By Eric Florip and Patty Hastings

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A day after a Pacific storm walloped the Northwest with heavy rains and wind, Tuesday's encore continued to cause havoc in Clark County.

Showery conditions are likely to continue Wednesday before giving way to a mostly dry Thanksgiving, forecasters say. Anyone hitting the road before the holiday should be ready for snow in the mountain passes through the Cascades.

Rain should return by Friday, according to the weather service, and may stick around into next week.

On Tuesday, a cooler, showery pattern brought hit-and-miss rainfall to the area throughout the day, with the heaviest showers at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. But passing squalls were big enough to again leave standing water on some local roads and highways.

Vancouver Public Works had about a dozen calls by early afternoon about flooding on city streets, said spokeswoman Loretta Callahan. Most problems were because of clogged storm drains or the volume of water maxing out the system, she said. Crews cleared a clogged culvert on Cedar Creek Road in far north Clark County on Tuesday afternoon, said Jeff Mize, spokesman for county's Public Works department. The culvert had been clogged for 36 hours.

Capt. Dave James with the Vancouver Fire Department said drivers should take caution when navigating water-logged roadways. He advises going around these large pools of water because it is difficult to tell how deep they are. If you can't avoid these spots, drive through them very slowly.

"If you go fast it can splash up into the engine compartment, get into the distributor cap and stall the engine," he said.

How much rain fell Tuesday? That depends on where you were standing.

Consider the disparate numbers on opposite sides of the Columbia River. At one point Tuesday morning, Pearson Field recorded 0.25 inch of rain in one hour. At Portland International Airport, during the same hour, the rain gauge collected just 0.07 inch, according to the National Weather Service.

By 8 p.m., Vancouver had recorded 0.58 inch of rain Tuesday, according to the weather service.

Monday's final total gave the city 1.64 inches of precipitation -- good enough to beat a 91-year-old record for that date. But Vancouver was far from the wettest place in Clark County.

In La Center, 3.7 inches of rain was reported during a 24-hour period ending late Monday night, said Liana Ramirez, a meteorologist with the weather service in Portland. Camas saw nearly 2 inches just between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday, she said.

The source: a moist, slow-moving front that wrung itself out over Washington and Oregon.

"It was able to dump a lot of rain, and it was pretty widespread," Ramirez said. Rainfall amounts varied based on elevation and the pattern of the system carrying it, she added.

Strong winds and falling trees caused sporadic power outages around Clark County both Monday and Tuesday, said Erica Erland, spokeswoman for Clark Public Utilities. Almost 5,000 were without power around 2:20 p.m. Tuesday while workers bypassed a bad transmission switch at the Minnehaha substation. Crews worked throughout Tuesday night to repair lines and restore power.

Clogged culverts and debris also blocked a handful of highways in the region, said Washington State De

partment of Transportation spokeswoman Abbi Russell. Workers continued to clear roads on Tuesday.

Locally, a shorthanded WSDOT crew has worked long hours to keep things moving during the early part of the holiday week, Russell said. Stormy conditions aren't new for road maintenance crews, but this week marked the first big event of the season, she said.

"Every time we have a storm like this, they never cease to amaze me," Russell said.

Reporter Paul Suarez contributed to this story.