Thousands lose power as thunderstorms hit county

Vehicle crashes clog traffic on Highway 14

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: June 16, 2014, 9:11 PM

 

Thousands of residents lost power and vehicle crashes slowed the evening commute Monday as heavy rainfall and thunderstorms struck Clark County and other parts of the Portland metro area.

The first storms moved in late Monday afternoon. Around 4:30 p.m., the Bonneville Power Administration lost its feed with Clark Public Utilities, causing an estimated 14,325 customers to lose electricity in Camas and Washougal, Clark Public Utilities spokeswoman Erica Erland said. She said the outage was weather-related. Customers started to get their power back just after 7 p.m.

About half an inch of rainfall was recorded Monday evening at Pearson Field, said Steve Pierce, a Salmon Creek resident, Columbian weather blogger and president of the Oregon chapter of the American Meteorological Society.

“That’s a good amount of rainfall for one day in the month of June,” Pierce said. Although rain and thunderstorms aren’t unheard of in the spring, Monday’s thunder, lightning and downpours (and reports of marble-sized hail in Oregon) were more than what forecasters expected, he said.

During the storms, the Washington State Patrol reported several vehicle spin-outs on highways around the county, Trooper Will Finn said.

Just after 5:30 p.m., a tractor-trailer crashed on state Highway 14 eastbound near Evergreen Boulevard. As the tractor-trailer traveled uphill in the right lane, its driver apparently noticed too late that traffic had stopped, Finn said.

The driver slammed on the brakes, and the tractor-trailer jack-knifed across all three lanes. It hit the highway’s median and pushed concrete barriers into the westbound lanes. The vehicle then swung back into the right lane and hit the barrier on that side of the highway, knocking sections down a hill, Finn said.

A westbound vehicle was struck by parts of the median that were pushed into the roadway. No one was injured, and by about 7:30 p.m. the tractor-trailer and barriers had been cleared from the highway.

Finn said he wasn’t sure why traffic stopped prior to the crash, though he said it was raining heavily at the time.

Earlier Monday, a non-injury, multiple-vehicle crash also slowed traffic in the northbound lanes of the Interstate 5 Bridge.

During heavy rain, WSP recommends slowing down, giving enough following distance between vehicles and leaving room for emergency responders at crash sites.

The weather system on Monday was caused by a mix of cold upper-level air and daytime heating, Pierce said. He described the storm as moving like a pinwheel over the metro area, causing reoccurring downpours.

The storm system will remain over the area today, but the showers should be less severe because the system is moving east, Pierce said. Temperatures are expected to climb to the mid-70s on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Our lawns will thank us come July when we are complaining about the heat and lack of rain,” he said of Monday’s storm.


Columbian staff writer Stevie Mathieu contributed to this story.