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Snow, strong winds, rarely seen cold temperatures hit Clark County on Saturday

Weather causes cancellations, closures

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 13, 2024, 8:24am
5 Photos
A snow plow clears state Highway 500 on Saturday in Vancouver.
A snow plow clears state Highway 500 on Saturday in Vancouver. (Jessica Prokop/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Frigid temperatures, combined with a mix of snow, sleet and strong east winds created a treacherous winter storm throughout Clark County and the Portland-Vancouver metro area.

Vancouver’s high temperature on Saturday reached only 21 degrees, a chill that hadn’t been seen in 33 years, according to the National Weather Service.

As of 4 p.m., the National Weather Service office in east Portland near the Columbia River had measured 1½ inches of snow during the day with Vancouver accumulating about the same amount, according to NWS senior meteorologist Shawn Weagle. Forecasters expect precipitation to taper off later tonight, followed by a spell of dry weather Sunday through early Tuesday.

“The sleet has mostly changed over to snow across the metro area, and I think it’s going to be mostly snow from this point out,” Weagle said. “I think you’ll see off and on snow in Vancouver until about 9 or 10 this evening and then it should wind down for good at that point.”

Vancouver’s high of 21 degrees Saturday was last recorded on Dec. 22, 1990. Temperatures hovered in the teens for much of the day and will continue to stay well below average in the coming days.

“It’s going to be cold for several days — not necessarily this cold, but below normal for a while,” Weagle said.

The winter weather led to closures, cancellations and schedule changes.

Vancouver Clinic said its Ridgefield and Camas Urgent Care locations are closed Saturday and Sunday. All other urgent care locations will close at 5 p.m. Saturday and reopen at 9 a.m. Sunday.

A Winter Storm Warning issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect for the greater Vancouver area through Saturday evening, with winds gusting between 35 and 55 miles per hour and wind chills as low as 10 below zero.

The weather service warns people who are not properly dressed for extreme cold may experience frostbite within 30 minutes and can succumb to hypothermia.

In Portland, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner suspects at least one person died of hypothermia as a result of dangerous weather conditions.

According to a press release issued by the county, the person died on Saturday in Portland. The county didn’t provide further details and said the cause of death won’t be confirmed for several weeks to months.

“The death is still considered a suspected case and is under investigation as a potential cold weather-related death,” the release stated. “Further tests and investigation will determine whether the death is officially cold weather-related.”

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Due to gusty winds, Clark County Public Works issued a simple message to area residents Saturday morning: “The safest place to be today is indoors, away from trees.”

In a post on its social media channels, Clark County Public Works asked residents to exercise caution in county parks and trails where ice, snow and strong winds are creating hazardous conditions. People should stay away from trees, power poles and power lines during strong wind events.

Down trees, broken pipes and other maintenance issues in parks can be reported to Clark County Public Works using its web form at clark.wa.gov/public-works/report-park-road. Report down trees on roads by calling 564-397-2446.

Power outages

According to Clark Public Utilities, an estimated 6,969 customers were experiencing power outages, with power restored to an additional 3,262 customers as of 5 p.m.

North Clark County saw the largest concentration of customers without power. An outage caused by a tree falling into power lines affected an estimated 911 customers in Ridgefield and La Center.

In northeast Clark County near Amboy and Chelatchie, an estimated 1,096 customers experienced an outage at 1 p.m., also caused by a tree downing powerlines.

An estimated 1,691 customers in the Camas-Washougal area lost power at 3:20 p.m.

Outages can be reported to Clark Public Utilities at www.clarkpublicutilities.com/outages-safety or by calling 360-992-8000.

NW Natural, a gas utility covering Southwest Washington and Portland, released a statement Saturday afternoon asking customers to conserve gas use due to “record breaking natural gas use caused by extreme winter temperatures and complications from a regional storage facility in Washington that’s creating significant pressure problems on the Williams pipeline that serves our region.”

Roads & Transportation

Clark County Public Works announced Saturday afternoon the following roads are closed:

  • Northeast 259th Street east of Battle Ground Lake State Park
  • Washougal River Road at milepost 3
  • Northeast 39th Street west of state Highway 500
  • Southeast Hans Nagel Road
  • Northeast Hammond Road
  • Northeast Stauffer Road
  • Southeast Moffet Road
  • Northeast 82nd Avenue at Northeast 279th Street
  • Northwest Allen Canyon Road

C-Tran announced that riders of The Vine, both on Fourth Plain and Mill Plain boulevards, may need to use adverse-weather boarding locations.

Additionally, C-Tran routes 2, 6, 9, 19, 30, 31, 32, 74 and 92 are following snow routes. C-Tran customers on routes 60 and 65 should anticipate significant delays. Service on The Current has been suspended in all areas. As of 11:45 a.m., C-Van is providing life-sustaining trips only.

Traction tires or chains are required on state Highway 14 in both directions between milepost 19 near Washougal and milepost 83 near Dallesport, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Check road conditions at The Columbian’s live traffic map. For the latest on highways across Washington, visit wsdot.com/travel/real-time or follow WSDOT on Twitter. In Oregon, visit tripcheck.com.

Shortly after 12 p.m., WSDOT reported multiple collisions within minutes of each other on Interstate 5 in Vancouver.

A collision partially blocked a northbound exit ramp at East 39th Street. WSDOT also reported a crash at northbound milepost 4 near NE 78th Street, blocking the left lane of the freeway for several minutes before WSDOT cleared the area.

There was also a collision at southbound milepost 6 near Salmon Creek that briefly blocked the left lane.

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