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Ash puzzles Clark County drivers, keeps car washes busy

Particles piggyback on raindrops from high in atmosphere

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
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The line at Kaady Car Wash backed up on Mill Plain Boulevard on Wednesday morning after people awoke to their cars covered in ash from early-morning rainfall.
The line at Kaady Car Wash backed up on Mill Plain Boulevard on Wednesday morning after people awoke to their cars covered in ash from early-morning rainfall. (Photo contributed by Angela Moore) Photo Gallery

Clark County residents awoke Wednesday to find their vehicles covered in ash, despite fairly clear skies Tuesday.

The air wasn’t thick with haze at the surface Tuesday, but there was smoke high up in the atmosphere, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

Light rainfall early Wednesday morning brought down the ash particles, leaving some residents bewildered as to where the mess came from.

Local car washes were backed up with long wait times, and traffic spilled onto the streets.

Michael Fox, owner of Fox’s Full Service Car Wash and Fuel on Highway 99 in Hazel Dell, said his business was running at nearly double its capacity, and the wait time in the afternoon was about 30 minutes.

People asked Fox where the grime came from. He said he didn’t recall seeing this kind of ash covering since the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge.

Camas resident Angela Moore said she had never seen anything like what she saw on her car when she went to work Wednesday morning. She drove by a car wash but said she didn’t have time to wait an hour to get her car cleaned.

Kaady Car Wash, with locations on Andresen Road, Mill Plain Boulevard and Northeast 117th Avenue, was also slammed with customers all day.

Tim Hilliker said Kaady’s California locations have seen this sort of demand, due to ash, all summer but that this was the first time this year in Vancouver. He said people’s best chance at avoiding a line is to come at opening or closing time — 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Otherwise, he suggested demand should slow by next week.

“We want to wash every one of them, but you’ll have to have a little patience,” he said.

This weather event is unlikely to happen again anytime soon, according to the National Weather Service, and the smoke is on its way out of the area this weekend.

“It’s something that we’re keeping an eye on,” a meteorologist with the weather service said. “But as it is, we’re not really expecting it to happen again — at least in the immediate future.”

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