Winter chill

Storm brings snow, ice, wind and freezing rain to the Camas-Washougal area

Birds navigated icy tree branches to get to the seeds in a feeder at one Washougal home.

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About a quarter-inch of ice coated the area over the weekend, as freezing rain blanketed the area Saturday and Sunday.

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A City of Washougal snow plow cruises down 32nd Street on Sunday afternoon, scraping away snow and ice that had accumulated in the area on Friday and Saturday. Some freezing rain fell early Monday morning, but by mid-morning temperatures warmed above freezing and most of the main arterial roads in Camas and Washougal were simply wet. Side streets, however, remained covered with slushy snow, and some pockets of ice.

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Many local businesses, like Bella Vita Boutique in downtown Camas (pictured above), kept their doors closed over the weekend, for the safety of employees and customers. Most, however, were back open for business by Monday afternoon. On its Facebook page yesterday, Bella Vita posted: “The snow is finally melting! Cure your cabin fever and come shop with us.”

After four days of inclement weather blasted the local area with snow, wind, freezing rain and ice, frigid conditions are finally beginning to thaw.

According to the National Weather Service, Camas and Washougal received approximately 9 inches of snow during the past four days, and freezing rain arrived in force on Saturday night and continued into early Sunday morning, creating treacherous road conditions.

Steve Pierce of Northwest Weather Consultants said the recent storm follows a five-year trend.

“There is a trend for several winters with almost no snow, then a big snowfall, then no snow for a few more winters. Rinse and repeat every five or so years,” he said. “This past week was a classic example of nearly the perfect snowfall setup for Portland/Vancouver and the Willamette Valley.

“Cold arctic air swept down from Canada, followed by several Pacific storms sliding over the top of cold air,” he continued. “Cold air is heavy, dense and extremely hard to displace as long as the center of these storms continued to stay south of Portland, as they did. This allowed cold easterly low level winds to blow from the east, transporting additional cold and dry air into Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

Even on Monday, the National Weather Service continued to warn residents of potential safety hazards including slick roads and falling tree limbs.

“This cannot be overstated,” the bulletin reads. “Please do not go under trees. Tree limbs and even whole trees can fall with little notice and potentially kill you when coated with ice.”

Crews work to keep streets clear

Snow plows could be seen all around Camas and Washougal in recent days, working to clear snow and ice from city streets.

According to Camas Public Works Director Eric Levison, the city had all of its equipment, including four plows — two equipped with sanding units — and two chemical de-icer trucks out in the field Thursday through Sunday.

Levison said the de-icer and salt material, some of which was lent to the city by Vancouver and Clark County, was used to keep the main arterial roads open.

On Monday, Levison said his department’s priorities included re-opening roads that had been closed and clearing snow from school bus routes.

“When those priorities are complete, we will work into any remaining residential areas,” he said.

Temperatures that had dipped into the teens were back up into the mid-30s on Monday. The National Weather Service kept a freezing rain advisory in effect through Monday night, with forecasts for the rest of the week simply calling for rain showers and temperatures in the low to mid-40s.

According to Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart, emergency crews were kept busy throughout the weekend.

School closures

The problems began on Thursday, when high winds and snow began to fall in the mid-afternoon. Camas and Washougal school districts closed all schools three hours early, and they remained shuttered on Friday and Monday due to poor weather conditions. In Washougal, a power outage at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School and Canyon Creek Middle School forced an even earlier closure starting at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.

In Washougal, those snow day make-up days have already been announced. Students will spend June 20 and 23 in school to make up for the hours missed.

In Camas, students will now have to attend school on Friday, Feb. 14, which had previously been included as part of a four-day President’s Day holiday weekend. Students will still have Monday, Feb. 17 off. The other day will be made up on June 17.

Garbage service

City of Camas garbage and recycling normally picked up on Monday, Feb. 10, will be picked up today with regular Tuesday garbage pick-up. Friday garbage and recycling that was missed on Feb. 7, will not be picked up until Friday, Feb. 14.

Waste Connections cancelled all of its Friday, Saturday and Monday routes. Customers are being instructed to set out double their standard service level on their next scheduled pick up day at no additional charge. Extra garbage should placed in plastic bags and extra recycling in paper bags or boxes.

First Friday

After First Friday events on Feb. 7 were cancelled, Downtown Camas Association Executive Director Carrie Schulstad said merchants have decided to hold a “First Friday do-over” on Thursday, Feb. 13, so that shoppers can pick up gifts in time for Valentine’s Day.

Schulstand said from 5 to 8 p.m. there will be after hours art, shopping and dining with the Valentine’s candy guessing game in participating stores. Themes of chocolate, wine, and romance can be found throughout participating downtown businesses.

Additional information and updates will be posted at www.downtowncamas.com and on the DCA Facebook page.