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Atmospheric river pushes through Clark County, causing flooding, road closures, record temperatures

Lewis River Highway closed near Cougar; other bridge closures noted

By Amy Libby, Columbian Web Editor, and
Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 6, 2023, 8:10pm
3 Photos
Lewis River Highway closed to traffic in both directions near Cougar on Tuesday after a landslide damage the road.
Lewis River Highway closed to traffic in both directions near Cougar on Tuesday after a landslide damage the road. (WSDOT) Photo Gallery

An atmospheric river pushed through the region early this week, causing flooding, road closures and record-breaking temperatures.

The Washington State Department of Transportation on Wednesday closed state Highway 503 near Cougar at Milepost 35 in both directions due to a landslide. It tore away a chunk of pavement and carved a hollow space under the road. Maintenance crews are determining next steps. The agency does not have an estimate for how long the closure will last and asks drivers to use alternate routes.

Clark County Public Works closed Landon Bridge near Yacolt, which carries Northeast C.C. Landon Road over Yacolt Creek. The department recommends drivers use Northeast Parcel Avenue and Northeast Railroad Avenue as a detour. A map can be found at www.clark.wa.gov/media/document/91161.

The bridge that carries Northeast 112th Avenue over Salmon Creek in Brush Prairie, Bridge No. 275, is also closed. No alternate is available because it is at a dead end.

In addition, Bridge No. 201, which extends Northeast 156th Street across Salmon Creek in Brush Prairie, is closed. Clark County directs drivers to use Northeast Cramer Road and state Highway 503 as a detour.

Downed power lines led to temporary closures of Northeast Spurrel Road and Northeast Pup Creek Road. Portions of Lacamas Regional Park near the Round Lake dam are closed.

Clark County Public Works can’t predict when conditions will improve enough to open the roads and bridges but will provide updates at clark.wa.gov/public-works.

In addition to road havoc, the storm brought unseasonable warmth, which Portland-based National Weather Service meteorologist Noah Alviz chalked up to atmospheric rivers. They are narrow bands of moisture originating in southern tropical regions across the Pacific Ocean. Warmth in the south causes water vapor to float into the atmosphere, where it’s carried by strong gusts toward the West Coast.

Vancouver reached 64 degrees on Tuesday, the highest temperature for this time of year since 1938, when it hit 62 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

Showers gradually subsided Wednesday afternoon. But in the previous 48 hours, Vancouver and Camas received 2 to 3 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Rain totals were greater in north Clark County and in higher elevations. Battle Ground received 3 to 4 inches of rain.

Heavy rains hit Southwest Washington ,br< A storm drain in Vancouver overflows on Wednesday morning before sunrise. While there is not major flooding in Vancouver, streets are pooling with water as storm drains are blocked and overflow.
Columbian staff writer