Saturday, April 17, 2021
April 17, 2021

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Snow blankets Southwest Washington, Portland; more on the way

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:

Snow continued to fall today throughout Clark County, causing closures and traffic crashes, including one fatal crash on state Highway 500.

And forecasters say more wintry weather is on the way.

The National Weather Service in Portland issued a winter storm warning that remains in effect until 4 p.m. Saturday. The prolonged weather event is the result of a series of Pacific storms bringing a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow to portions of Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.

NWS Meteorologist David Bishop said snowfall totals for Clark County vary, but overall, about 2 to 3.5 inches of snow have accumulated countywide. That applies to east county towns like Camas and Washougal, and places north of Vancouver such as Battle Ground and Ridgefield.

The storm warning predicts another heavy snowfall tonight. The impacted communities listed include Vancouver, Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Washougal, Yacolt and Amboy.

15 Photos
Emilya, 6, and Katerina, 5, play in the snow on Friday, February 12, in front of their home in the Minnehaha neighborhood. Snow continued to accumulate Friday morning as the winter storm persisted.
Snow piles up throughout region Friday Photo Gallery

“Total snow accumulations of 4 to 12 inches appear most likely across the north and east metro,” the storm warning says. Bishop said this estimation applies to Vancouver and most of Clark County.

Eastern winds will gust as high as 30 to 50 mph, mainly for areas to the east of Interstate 205 toward the Columbia River Gorge, the weather service said.

A third, much lighter round of snow is forecasted for Sunday, Bishop said. About an inch of snow may accumulate, he said. Temperatures should begin to creep up and thaw the snow on Monday and Tuesday.

Traffic woes

The snow has caused driving conditions to deteriorate. The county’s larger law enforcement agencies have been dispatched to numerous vehicle crashes since Thursday night, but overall there hasn’t been an exorbitant amount of wrecks. Police in the smaller towns reported few crashes and some good will.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp noted a single crash this afternoon. A car that could not stop at a stop sign ran into the side of a C-Tran bus, she said.

C-Tran spokesman Eric Florip said the crash at Kauffman Avenue and West 23rd Street on Route 2 was minor. There were no riders on the bus, and the driver was not injured, he said.

For a 12-hour period ending at 4:30 p.m., dispatch logs show Vancouver police responded to at least 13 crashes. Clark County sheriff’s deputies responded to about 20 wrecks in the same amount of time. The dispatch logs listed the majority of crashes as noninjury. A few dispatches were listed as hit-and-run incidents.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn said troopers had responded to 32 crashes in Clark County from midnight to late this afternoon. Twenty-nine of the crashes happened between 4:50 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. They were all random and not in particularly troublesome areas, he said.

The most significant crash happened around 10:30 a.m. on state Highway 500 at Milepost 9. The two-vehicle crash killed one person and closed the highway for 3½ hours. Troopers are waiting to speak to the family before identifying the victim.

Finn cautioned people to only travel if needed during the snowfall.

“If you must travel, remember to reduce your vehicle speed and increase distance between yourself and other motorists. Make sure your vehicle is in proper working condition and remove any built up of snow from vehicle windows before traveling,” Finn said.

Washougal Police Department Sgt. Geoff Reijonen said things have been relatively quiet there. However, there have been two hit-and-runs on parked cars, he said. Officers have had to stop ATVs from driving on the roads.

Early today, officers helped a family getting home when they couldn’t get their vehicle up one of the hills in town.  Another officer gave the family a courtesy ride home, Reijonen said.

Camas Police Department reported no crashes as of this afternoon.

“Smooth ice skating in Camas,” said officer Debrah Riedl.

Roadway pros

The Washington State Department of Transportation has had snow plows on the road since the winter weather kicked off.

One such snow plow is driving up and down Interstate 5 in Clark County, clearing the lanes and treating roads, bridges, overpasses and ramps with deicer and salt as needed, said spokeswoman Celeste Dimichina.

Work crews are primarily focused on the county’s arterial roads: Interstates 5 and 205 and state Highways 14 and 500. There are multiple plows driving those major roadways and restocking on deicer and salt as needed, Dimichina said.

If a road appears to be treated well for a time, the plows will switch to state Highways 502 and 503. Those roads are certainly more snowy, Dimichina said, so drivers should use caution.

“Everyone’s comfort driving in snow is a bit different, so up (Highway) 503, some people may feel fine driving, but people should use their own discretion,” Dimichina said.

City of Vancouver Public Works street crew transitioned to around-the-clock coverage earlier this week. Workers were able to pre-treat major routes and key intersections and hills with deicer due to a small window of relatively dry streets on Thursday afternoon, said Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for Vancouver Public Works.

There are more than 1,900 lane miles of streets in Vancouver. During severe weather events, Public Works crews are deployed in zones throughout the city to efficiently address the dangerous conditions.

Equipment and vehicles used for normal operations and maintenance work are converted with plows and deicers. Crews also make their own deicing solution at mixing stations in both west and east Vancouver.

Public Works has not veered from its initial plan. The first priority is the city’s web of arterial streets — the major routes that connect police, fire and emergency medical services. Next come the remaining major streets, snow bus routes and key areas around hills and intersections. As weather conditions, resources and time allow, crews are plowing and deicing public parking lots.

“As of this time, all streets in Vancouver are open. The plan is to keep plowing and treating priority streets, a process that has to be repeated over and over as snow keeps coming down,”  Callahan said.

Closures and changes in service

Conditions have prompted a number of closures and service changes.

Some schools have switched to fully remote learning, while others have canceled all classes. You can find a list of school closures on The Columbian’s school closures page.

C-Tran continuously announced a series of service changes today due to snow and ice. Many routes have been shifted to snow routes. Several routes are providing service between Portland and Clark County; All other Express service is suspended. C-VAN canceled all “non-life sustaining rides” after 1 p.m. today.

“For (Saturday), based on the forecast, service will remain impacted. … We encourage people to dress warm and be prepared for delays, though we’ve done a pretty good job of running the buses on time,” said Florip.

The Clark County Fairgrounds mass vaccination site will be closed Saturday, according to the Washington State Department of Health, which runs the vaccination clinic.

Road conditions are not safe for travel to and from the site.

DOH said in a statement that anyone with an appointment canceled by weather will be able to get a make-up appointment from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Additionally, according to the statement, for those waiting for second COVID-19 inoculations, the department will begin administering second shots Wednesday.

The COVID-19 community testing site at Tower Mall, 5403 E. Mill Plain Blvd., will also be closed Saturday. People who have pre-registered for testing will be notified if their scheduled appointment is affected.

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