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News / Clark County News

Ice storm leaves downed wires, damaged trees in wake in Clark County

By Mark Bowder, Columbian Metro Editor, and
Jerzy Shedlock, Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published: February 15, 2021, 12:02pm
9 Photos
An icy snowman with a mask in East Vancouver.
An icy snowman with a mask in East Vancouver. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Warmer temperatures are helping Clark County thaw out Monday, but emergency responders and county departments have their hands full in the aftermath of last week’s winter weather and subsequent ice storm.

Freezing rain Sunday night and Monday caused a significant number of outages countywide. The majority and the most severe outages have been in the north and west portions of the county, Clark Public Utilities spokesman Dameon Pesanti said.

The northern and western ends of Clark County are part of the utility’s grid that don’t have the same redundancy built in as the more populated areas. For people living in forested areas at higher elevations, they’re at the end of a power line, he said.

The utility issued an all-hands-on-deck call early Monday to support crews already out and working on the issues. Most of the outages were caused by falling tree limbs. That’s typical of the county’s outages, as around half of them, regardless of weather, are the result of damaged trees, Pesanti said.

14 Photos
Icicles hang from the railing of a bridge as sporadic traffic flows smoothly in the northbound lane of Interstate 205 following an ice storm Monday morning, Feb. 15, 2021.
February Ice Storm Photo Gallery

Crews are clearing problem spots fairly quickly, and maintenance has picked up with the daylight.

As of 10 a.m. Monday, there were about 7,100 utility customers without power, according to an online outage map. Over the course of the winter weather event, there were about 40 total outages that affected around 35,000 customers, according to Pesanti.

Clark County Public Works Department said in a Facebook post Monday morning that icy conditions throughout the county were making roads slick and causing extensive damage to trees. Crews are treating the roads and cleaning up the tree debris, the post says.

“Please continue to stay home if you can until temperatures start to rise,” Public Works urged.

The county public works crews have shut down several roads deemed unsafe for travel. Northeast Gerber-McKee Road in Amboy and Northeast W.H. Garner Road in Yacolt have numerous downed trees, tree limbs and power lines blocking access, said spokeswoman Magan Reed.

Trees are toppling, so it’s unsafe for workers or commuters, and the roads have been closed. Crews plan to revisit the area around 6 p.m. Monday to reassess the situation.

Crews have also closed Northeast Grantham and Reid roads, near Fargher Pond, as firefighters address a brush fire caused by a downed power line, Reed said.

Conditions varied throughout the county, however.

Vancouver Police Department spokeswoman Kim Kapp said the most persistent issue officers noted was drivers not taking road conditions into account and getting stuck. Traffic officers helped people by teaching them to free their vehicles when possible, she said. 

Some drivers were getting themselves stuck because the ruts in the roads were deep and causing vehicles to high center. By Monday afternoon, snow was melting and water was accumulating, creating an “icy, slushy mix in certain areas,” Kapp said.

There were no notable wrecks reported as of 2 p.m. , she said.

Clark County Fire District 3 Capt. Drew Simpson said it was relatively quiet in Battle Ground by Monday. The main roads are clear and wet, but the side roads are still covered with ice and snow. The fire department had already taken snow chains off of most of its vehicles, he said. 

“No big troubles here,” Simpson said.

In Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue’s coverage area — Ridgefield, La Center and Woodland, and other other rural communities — crews had responded to 19 calls over a 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. They typically respond to about a dozen calls in that amount of time, said Fire Chief John Nohr. 

Several downed power lines were the largest issue.

“Those down lines blew a couple transformers, and crews stayed on scene at a few locations due to the dangers of downed lines,” Nohr said. 

The fire agency’s vehicles were still equipped with snow chains late Monday morning. The ice and snow on side roads are breaking into slush, which can be difficult for chains to grasp. Still, crews have had no significant crashes and only a few minor fires to respond to overnight, according to the fire chief. 

The conditions continue to affect some services. Schools were already closed due to the Presidents Day holiday.  C-Tran is adjusting its bus routes. Here’s the latest updates as of noon: 

  • Route 65 is resuming service.
  • Route 92 is resuming service, but not serving Addy Loop in Washougal.
  • The Ridgefield/La Center Connector is resuming service, but not serving Pioneer Street in Ridgefield.
  • Ongoing service impacts:
  • Route 157 is suspended.
  • The Vine is currently being served by 40-foot buses. Passengers should board the bus at the designated location adjacent to each station. Turtle Place station is closed.
  • Routes 2, 6, 9, 19, 31 and 32 are on snow routes.
  • Route 47 is suspended.
  • Route 71 is on detour, not currently serving the Waterfront. All stops west of Columbia Street, along Columbia Way and 6th Street are not served.
  • Route 80 is not serving 51st Circle.
  • Route 134 is suspended; it will be combined with Route 105.
  • Route 190 is suspended.
  • The Camas Connector is suspended. 

The forecast for Vancouver and surrounding communities calls for rain showers through Monday, with the chance of precipitation dipping to 60 percent into Tuesday. New rainfall amounts were predicted to be a tenth-of-an-inch to a quarter-inch, according to the National Weather Service in Portland. 

Tuesday’s forecast says there is a 30 percent chance for rain showers. And the temperature for the city should reach 45 degrees. Wednesday should see patchy fog, followed by daily rain to finish out the week, the weather service said.

Columbian Metro Editor
Columbian Breaking News Reporter