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News / Clark County News

Winter storm takes toll in Clark County

Ice storm warning issued through 4 a.m. Wednesday

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 16, 2024, 6:32pm
4 Photos
C-Tran facility service worker Sterling Hinkle shovels snow away from a Vine bus stop on Mill Plain on Tuesday in Vancouver. As if snow and days of subfreezing temperatures weren't enough, the National Weather Service in Portland issued an ice storm warning through 4 a.m. Wednesday.
C-Tran facility service worker Sterling Hinkle shovels snow away from a Vine bus stop on Mill Plain on Tuesday in Vancouver. As if snow and days of subfreezing temperatures weren't enough, the National Weather Service in Portland issued an ice storm warning through 4 a.m. Wednesday. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

While almost 100,000 households were without power and four people died of apparent hypothermia in Portland during the weekend’s winter storm, the snowy blast didn’t hit Clark County quite as hard.

Clark Public Utilities reported that 24,675 customers across the county were without power between Friday and Sunday. Power was restored within the same day for many homes, with about 200 households experiencing prolonged power outages. And, at least so far, the Clark County medical examiner has not identified any deaths related to the cold snap.

“The east winds from the Columbia River Gorge contributed to the slightly colder temperatures and more intense weather in Portland compared to Vancouver,” said Miles Higa, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Portland office.

Vancouver’s highest temperature over the weekend was 22 degrees and the lowest was 13, Higa said.

The cold snap isn’t over yet. The National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning through 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Although the weather service was able to anticipate the weekend’s storm and warn Clark County residents, the frigid temperatures still took their toll.

For Clark Public Utilities, it was an “extremely challenging weekend,” spokesman Dameon Pesanti said. Nearly 400 people, including agency employees and contracted professionals from arborist companies, collaborated to clear damage from fallen trees over the snowy weekend.

In a Tuesday Facebook post, the agency said “bringing power back on in below freezing temperatures is a delicate and methodical process and must be done slowly in a specific order. You may experience a blink in power or another outage right after power is restored as the system is reheated and electric load is added back to the grid.”

The utility was on alert for more power outages from the expected ice storm, Pesanti said.

Ice storms tend to be more damaging to power lines because ice is heavier than snow, Pesanti said. The utility encourages customers to conserve power by turning off big appliances and holding off on chores, such as laundry and dishwashing until temperatures increase.

Clark County Public Works reported that a tree fell Tuesday and damaged a picnic shelter in Hazel Dell Community Park. The agency fenced off the shelter until the damage can be assessed.

“Our roads crews have been out on the roads plowing and sanding the roads all day, with some lowland areas getting de-icer applied in the intersections,” said Kaley McLachlan-Burton, a Public Works spokeswoman. “We plow to remove loose snow/ice, widen the roads and add new rock to hills, curves and intersections on roads without curbs.”

Most of the impacts of the storm on roads and parks have been seen in the northern and eastern parts of the county, she said.

Public Works planned to keep crews working to de-ice until about 7 p.m. Tuesday, but “after 8 a.m. (Wednesday), temperatures should be warm enough that the continued rain will melt what is left of the ice,” McLachlan-Burton said.

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