The wintry storm that swept across the Pacific Northwest Thursday and Friday continued into Saturday afternoon, bringing snow accumulation as high as 12 inches in some areas of Clark County.
According to Andy Bryant, a hydrologist at the Portland office of the National Weather Service, the storm will likely peter out Saturday night in Portland and Clark County, with occasional flurries on Sunday and continued subfreezing temperatures.
“What happened — that’s kind of our classic situation to get snow right in Portland metro and Southwest Washington — is we had low pressure with a storm coming in off the Pacific, and you’ve got higher pressure at the surface east of the Cascades,” Bryant said in a filmed interview with The Oregonian.
“The air wants to balance out, so it comes through the Columbia Gorge.”
The storm delighted the sledders, snowman sculptors and snowball combatants who ventured out into the white stuff. But for public utilities, road crews and even some restaurants, it was a destructive and dangerous weekend.
A series of power outages Saturday morning knocked out power for about 24,000 customers Saturday morning, according to Clark Public Utilities.
As of 10:30 a.m., five separate outages were reported to hit nearly 24,000 homes. The causes of the active outages were unknown. Crews had already restored power to 6,316 homes.
Dameon Pesanti, spokesman for Clark Public Utilities, said a fault on a transmission line caused the outages, but crews don’t know the cause of it yet. The fault knocked out four substations in the Orchards area.
Crews went out patrolling a 5-mile stretch of line in the Orchards area to figure out where issues originated.
“Service crews were sent out right away,” he said. “They’re rerouting the flow of power away from dead lines to secondary routes.”
During an outage, Clark Public Utilities recommends checking your neighbors’ houses, checking your electrical panel, reporting the outage at 360-992-8000 and also turning off all major appliances. Pesanti said to not call 911 to report outages.
“Early in the week, we anticipated this to be a major storm,” Pesanti wrote in an email to The Columbian. “So we started ramping up our crews and staging equipment days in advance. As of Thursday, we had 8 heavy crews of our own (big trucks geared for large repairs), 10 service crews, and 7 contract crews who were on hand until we released them Friday night.”
County snowplows stuck
Clark County on Saturday morning declared a state of emergency for the greater Clark County. Many roads were too dangerous to be used, the news release stated.
As of 6 a.m. Saturday, six snowplows were stuck in deep snow and ice in the Washougal area, according to the news release. One vehicle was removed, and crews were attempting to recover the other five plows, according to a news release from the Clark County Public Works Department.
“Our vehicles are equipped with chains and other safety measures to ensure they can traverse snow- and ice-covered roads,” Public Works Director Ahmad Qayoumi said in the news release. “This is a good reminder to the community that winter driving conditions are unpredictable and even the most prepared vehicles can have difficulty maneuvering through these conditions.”
Washington State Department of Transportation crews were busy Saturday, helping clear fallen trees and disabled vehicles from major highways.
They also closed state Highway 14 between Washougal and White Salmon entirely around 8 p.m. Friday. The closure continued into Saturday evening.
“Snowdrifts are higher than our plows in some locations,” the agency reported on Twitter at 2 p.m. “We’ve brought in a snowblower to help.”
Restaurants that moved their dining operations outside to accommodate COVID-19 regulations dealt with an additional complication: Some tents couldn’t withstand the weight of the accumulated snowfall.
Multiple Clark County restaurants reported Saturday that their outdoor dining structures had collapsed.
According to Michael Perozzo, the head of a local beer marketing firm Zzeppelin, owners of Fortside Brewing Company, Loowit Brewing Company, Barlows Brewery and Taps Beer Reserve all dealt with the issue. The outdoor dining tent at McMenamins on the Columbia partially collapsed, buckling in the middle under the weight.
The tents fell overnight while they were empty, Perozzo added. Nobody was injured.
“All were situations where they came in this morning and just found that the snow had crushed their structures,” Perozzo said. “I had a lot of different brewers and what not texting me photos saying, here’s another thing we’re dealing with.”
Clark County remained under a snow warning until 4 p.m. Saturday. The snow and freezing temperatures are expected to continue until Sunday.