Sunday, February 5, 2023
Feb. 5, 2023

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Clark County whipped by east wind that knocks out power, downs trees

By , Columbian staff reporter

Strong easterly wind gusts Monday evening knocked down trees and caused power outages in some areas of Clark County, including in Washougal. Schools there started three hours late this morning.

Areas of high pressure east of the Cascade Mountains and low pressure off the coast created strong gusts through the Columbia River Gorge, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Lisa Kriederman. Wind speeds were consistently around 15 mph Monday afternoon with gusts typically between 20 and 30 mph. Around 7 p.m., gusts reached 35 mph, she said.

The wind toppled a large tree that blocked a driveway and road leading to Washougal’s Cape Horn-Skye Elementary and Canyon Creek Middle schools, according to district spokeswoman Justine Hanrahan. It also knocked out power to four schools in the district, causing administrators to notify families of a late start.

In the morning, Skamania County Public Utility District and Clark Public Utilities restored power to the four schools and crews also removed the tree from the road. The district had planned an alternate drop-off site for students at the elementary and middle schools blocked by the tree, but officials cleared the debris quickly enough for people to use the main entrance, Hanrahan said.

“There are some minor limbs down around town, and we are still working with our grounds and maintenance crew to gather information, but do not anticipate finding any other significant damage to the schools or our campuses,” Hanrahan said in an email. “We’re appreciative of everyone’s effort to clean the tree up, restore power, and get our students to class.”

Clark Public Utilities crews also responded to other scattered outages, which affected a few hundred customers, mostly in central Vancouver and eastern Clark County, according to Communications Director Erica Erland. She said the conditions’ impacts were minimal.

“The outages were caused by tree limbs and branches on lines with some damage to cross-arms that required repair,” Erland said in an email. “Fortunately, our year-round work to trim vegetation away from lines and replace power lines in wooded areas with coated ‘tree line’ has made our system pretty resilient during these types of wind events.”

Kriederman said the wind gusts were expected to linger tonight before lessening on Wednesday. But the blustery conditions will likely return for part of the day Thursday.

The National Weather Service hadn’t received any reports of damage from the winds, Kriederman said.

Vancouver and Clark County Public Works departments said they did not note increases in calls due to the wind.