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Wind, freezing rain cut power for thousands

Outages scattered throughout county on Sunday not as bad as predicted

By , Columbian staff writer
Published: January 8, 2017, 8:19pm
3 Photos
Passengers cope with cold, wet weather to catch The Vine from the Vancouver Mall Transit Center on Sunday. The service operated with regular buses and on a modified route on its opening day due to adverse weather conditions. (Joseph Glode for The Columbian)
Passengers cope with cold, wet weather to catch The Vine from the Vancouver Mall Transit Center on Sunday. The service operated with regular buses and on a modified route on its opening day due to adverse weather conditions. (Joseph Glode for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Sunday’s weather wasn’t as bad as forecasters predicted, but it left thousands of Clark County residents temporarily without power and made for nasty driving conditions in the first half of the day.

More than 6,600 Clark Public Utilities District customers were without power at some point on Sunday, though all were back online by late afternoon. Most of the outages affected few people and were scattered through rural areas of the county, but one affected 1,600 people in the Cascade Park area at one time.

Clark PUD spokeswoman Erica Erland said the outages were caused by the wind and freezing rain that hit the area early Sunday morning, but they weren’t affected by Saturday’s snow.

“Fortunately, we anticipated it and we have all hands on deck,” she said early Sunday afternoon. “It’s always in the aftermath of wind and ice that we have the impact on the electrical system.”

The nasty weather also put a damper on the long-awaited start of C-Tran’s bus rapid transit system. The Vine ran its first day under snow operation, meaning C-Tran operated the route with its regular 40-foot buses rather than the new 60-foot articulated ones.

School Cancellations

 On Sunday evening, the Washougal, Mount Pleasant, Stevenson-Carson school districts and Skamania District 2 announced they will be closed Monday.

 Check Columbian.com for updates on those and other districts.

Buses still followed the Vine route from the Vancouver Mall Transit Center to downtown Vancouver but stopped at Route 4 stops rather than Vine stops.

“This isn’t how we wanted to launch The Vine, but we have to keep safety in mind first and foremost,” the agency wrote in a Facebook post.

The Washington State Patrol responded to 100 crashes, none of which involved serious injuries, in Clark County highways and Interstates between 3 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. The majority of the accidents, 91 in total, happened on Saturday before 11:30 p.m.

On Sunday morning, Trooper Will Finn said things were so busy that the state patrol had to call four troopers in early to get a handle on the situation.

The National Weather Service initially predicted three-quarters of an inch of freezing rain in Clark County on Sunday morning, but actual storms were less severe.

“Clark County been pretty mixed,” said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Some areas near the Columbia River saw freezing rain accumulate between a quarter and a half-inch on Sunday, but parts of the county above 500 feet saw little, if any. Northeast Clark County had some freezing rain early Sunday morning, but most had melted off by around 9 a.m., according to the Weather Service.

“It wasn’t expected the northeast parts of Clark County and Battle Ground to heat up as quickly as they did,” Neuman said. “But the winds coming from Larch Mountain and Silver Star may have down-sloped and warmed up that area just a bit for it to come up above freezing.”

Neuman said the next few days are expected to be wet and cold, with possible freezing rain or snow on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

“But it’s really uncertain. If people have plans to travel Wednesday morning, they should watch the forecast and we can give a better idea of what we think is going to happen.”

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