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News / Clark County News

Heavy rains cause localized flooding, mudslide

Several residents forced out due to slide risk

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter, and
Andy Matarrese, Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: December 7, 2015, 11:02am
4 Photos
Deputy Albin Boyse, left, and Ken Price of the Clark County Public Works Department investigate the scene of a mudslide Monday afternoon, Dec. 7, 2015 at Greenway Estates in Hazel Dell.
Deputy Albin Boyse, left, and Ken Price of the Clark County Public Works Department investigate the scene of a mudslide Monday afternoon, Dec. 7, 2015 at Greenway Estates in Hazel Dell. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Heavy rainfall Monday caused localized flooding, spin-out crashes and a landslide that damaged a condominium complex north of Hazel Dell, displacing about 10 residents.

Almost 2 inches of rain fell at Pearson Airfield from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service.

Although Monday’s storm eased during the afternoon, rainfall and high winds are expected to pick up again Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing with it an additional 3 to 4 inches of rain, National Weather Service Meteorologist Will Ahue said. Winds Tuesday and Wednesday are expected to reach speeds of 30 or 35 mph.

“We’ll maintain this wet weather pattern through the beginning of next week, possibly longer,” he said.

Rain causes landslide

The morning’s downpour caused some movement on a hillside adjacent to Greenway Estates, a complex at 1820 N.E. 116th St., between Northeast Highway 99 and Interstate 5, just south of the Salmon Creek. Residents called 911 after the wet, moving earth tipped a tree up against one of the units.

Initial damage appeared slight, but Fire District 6, a county building inspector and other officials responded to assess the danger. Officials cut the power to one of the complex’s buildings with six units due to the slide risk, Fire District 6 Assistant Chief Shawn Newberry said.

“Obviously the water is running from up above and impacting the people down below,” but how to address it will be the challenge, he said. The residents had to leave, he added.

The on-site manager, Linda Stokoe, said most of the residents were able to find lodging on their own, and at least one person received housing help through the American Red Cross.

She said the slide was caused by an excess of standing water on land above the hill, which is not part of the complex property. It could be days before residents can return, she added.

“We have to get an engineer to let us know when people can go back, or what can be done to stabilize the hill, but that will be when the storm’s over,” Stokoe said.

Dustin Eppers lives in a neighboring building in the complex. He didn’t hear the tree or earth moving, just the pounding on his door from an official telling him to leave. He went behind his condo, toward the hillside, and found the ground was saturated with water.

“I just felt myself sink into the ground,” he said. He later got the all-clear to go back inside his home.

Roads flooded, closed

Southeast Mill Plain Boulevard was closed for part of the day Monday from about Southeast 172nd Avenue to 192nd Avenue because of water over the road, according to Vancouver Public Works.

In north Clark County, officials closed Northeast JA Moore Road at the JA Moore Bridge, north of 284th Street, for high water, Clark County Public Works spokesman Jeff Mize said.

Water over the roadway also forced a closure at Northeast 165th Street and Northeast 102nd Avenue in Brush Prairie.

About 60 crews from Clark County Public Works responded to incoming reports of water over roadways, Mize said. He added that the crews were experienced and knew the trouble spots, where they quickly responded and removed debris, but that sometimes it isn’t an obstruction that’s the problem.

“When we have such heavy rain like this, the system gets pretty jammed up with water,” he said. “For the most part, during the heavy course of the rain we were doing OK. It’s only (Monday) afternoon and evening that we actually started closing roads.”

Vancouver Public Works crews responded to more than 70 calls before 5 p.m., the department said, clearing drains, flushing pipes and cleaning wells. Crews placed more than 50 signs along streets to warn of water on roadways.

The Clark County and Vancouver public works departments said street flooding is often the result of leaves and other debris clogging storm drains or roadside ditches. The departments reminded residents that leaves and other debris should not be blown or raked into the street, and that they should call city or county officials for help unclogging drains on busy roads.

Vehicle crashes

The onslaught of rain also clogged arterial roadways, slowing the morning commute and causing several crashes throughout the county.

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More than a dozen crashes were reported before noon on Monday, half of which were weather-related, Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn said. He reminded motorists that posted speed limits are for ideal conditions and asked drivers to slow down in the rain and increase following distance.

Weather officials are asking motorists to stay safe and not travel across flooded roads, because it only takes a few inches of swiftly flowing water to carry a vehicle away.

Sand, bags available

Agencies have set up self-serve stations for those who need sand and bags to prevent flooding.

Vancouver Public Works has two sites: one at 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd., and one at 912 N.E. 192nd Ave.

Clark County Public Works has a limited amount of sand available at 4700 N.E. 78th St. and 11608 N.E. 149th St. People need to bring their own shovels, Mize said.

Flooding and other public works emergencies can be reported to Clark County at 360-397-2446. In Vancouver, report such emergencies to 360-487-8177 during normal business hours; the after-hours number is 360-693-9302.

Battle Ground has sand and sandbags available, according to Clark County Fire & Rescue. Residents can call the city Public Works Department at 360-342-5352 (from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.) or 360-635-7076 (after 4 p.m.) to arrange pick-up.

Sandbags are available in Ridgefield in the west parking lot at Abrams Park and in Woodland at the city public works shop at 38404 Lakeshore Drive.

Parkrose Hardware stores will offer sand for free starting at around 9 a.m. today at its two locations, 16509 S.E. First St. and 8000 E. Mill Plain Blvd. The business said bring a shovel and bags. Additional bags will be for sale.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Columbian environment and transportation reporter