Storms bring freezing wind, ice and snow to Camas-Washougal

Area expected to thaw this weekend after back-to-back winter storms

timestamp icon
category icon Camas, Latest News, News, News, Washougal
Children take advantage of newly fallen snow to sled down a hill behind Skyridge Elementary School in Camas, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Back-to-back winter storms, fueled by cold arctic air and wind speeds that reached over 50 miles per hour near the Columbia River Gorge, blanketed the Portland-Vancouver metro area in snow and ice this week, causing power outages; downed tree limbs; stranded motorists; and a wind-driven residential fire that damaged a home on Southeast Blair Road, north of Camas-Washougal.

The first storm arrived late in the morning, Saturday, Jan. 13, and stalled over the Portland-Vancouver metro area for several hours, dropping 1 to 3 inches of snow, causing thousands to lose power.

Another storm that hit late Tuesday evening, Jan. 16, brought more high-speed wind, cold and ice to the Portland-Vancouver metro area, and caused another round of power outages and dangerous travel — shutting down Highway 14 through much of the Columbia River Gorge, from milepost 19 east of Washougal to milepost 65 near White Salmon, Washington.

The storms also contributed to at least nine deaths in the greater Portland metro area due to fallen tree limbs, hypothermia and a fire inside a Northeast Portland church that may have been caused by a generator being used during a power outage that accompanied frigid temperatures. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, two adults and a teenager died by electrocution and an infant was injured in Northeast Portland after coming in contact with a power line brought down by a falling, ice-laden tree limb.

Bryan Rachal, the city of Camas’ communications director, said Camas had “a number of closed roads” after the first storm hit Satuday, and that there were “numerous trees down and a lot of burst pipes.”

Rachal said City public works crews went out ahead of the storm to put down de-icer and try to prevent Camas roads from becoming too treacherous.

The City did have one pressure sewer line break, Rachal said, adding that, fortunately, most Camas residents kept their power throughout the worst of the storm over the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

Clark Public Utilities reported Wednesday, Jan. 17, that 325 customers were without power, mainly in the Vancouver Heights, Battle Ground and Hockinson areas of Clark County.

Rachal said Camas Police Chief Tina Jones reported that road conditions “were pretty dicey” following the first round of snow, and that Camas police gave a few stranded motorists rides home Tuesday evening, after the second storm dumped ice throughout Clark County, causing difficult travel.

The Camas City Council canceled its planned workshop and meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16, and closed its offices to the public through Thursday, Jan. 18. The city of Washougal also closed its offices to the public through Thursday “to ensure the safety of employees and community members.”

Both the Camas and Washougal school districts remained closed as of Thursday, Jan. 18, due to the inclement weather.

City of Camas publishes ‘snow and ice map’

The city of Camas issued a “snow and ice map 2024” to show residents where the City’s road crews would concentrate their deicing and snow-plowing efforts during the winter storms.

“The City currently has six vehicles with snowplows; some with solid deicer and sand-dispersing capabilities, and two with liquid deicing to maintain the priority routes,” the City explained on the snow and ice map. “Unfortunately, this equipment is not enough to keep all City streets maintained during a sustained snow or ice event. As such, the City has prioritized the main transportation routes that provide for emergency response service and that help move citizens, goods and services throughout the City.”

The City said non-priority roads will be plowed after the priority roads have been serviced or in the event of an emergency. Residents were asked to avoid parking on priority roads “as it makes removal of snow and ice more difficult” and the City warned it would “tow abandoned vehicles that pose a danger to the mobility or servicing of the emergency routes.”

To view the map, visit

Firefighters battle wind, cold, ‘water supply challenges’ to contain house fire

In east Clark County, firefighters said they “battled wind, cold temperatures and water supply challenges” Saturday afternoon, after responding to a residential fire on Southeast Blair Road north of Camas-Washougal.

East County Fire & Rescue (ECFR) firefighters, with assistance from the Camas-Washougal and Vancouver fire departments, responded to the residential fire around 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13. The first responders at the scene found a fire coming from the second story and attic of a home, and said all of the home’s occupants had evacuated, but that one person suffered minor injuries from a fall during their escape from the burning house.

“Firefighters attacked the fire from upwind outside the home due to the risk of a wind-driven fire on the interior. Contents stored in the attic and building construction along with the cold and wind made firefighting operations extremely challenging,” ECFR stated in a news release.

The firefighters reported temperatures in the area were around 16 degrees with sustained winds of 27 miles per hour (mph) and gusts reaching 40 mph when they arrived on the scene.

“Due to the … temperature and sustained winds … along with a lack of fire hydrants, a second alarm and two additional water tenders were required to provide sufficient resources for the extended firefight,” ECFR stated in the news release.

Crew got the fire under control by 5 p.m., but said “crews remained on-scene, digging out hidden fire and hot spots until 8:46 p.m.”

The total response to the structure fire included eight fire engines, three water tenders, two medical units and three chief officers from ECFR, CWFD, Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Fire District 3. Washougal police and Clark County Public Works crews provided traffic-control assistance during the fire.

ECFR officials said later that the “effective response to this incident was a testament to the professionalism and commitment of the firefighters and officers involved and the seamless working relationship between the agencies involved.”

Council for Homeless coordinates countywide shelter response

The Clark County Council for the Homeless issued a severe weather alert over the three-day Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend and extending through Tuesday, Jan. 16.

“Our goal is to ensure each person without a home in our community is safe and inside,” Sunny Wonder, deputy director for the Council for the Homeless, stated in a news release. “Each day, the homeless response system operates with limited resources to meet the needs of the community. During a winter storm, service providers leverage any and all resources to keep people safe.”

Winter shelters can be accessed by calling the Council for the Homeless Housing Hotline at 360-695-9677, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays, and between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on holidays.

Walk-in shelters also were available during the extreme winter weather events, including the Refuel Washougal overnight shelter, at 1681 “C” St., Washougal, and the Living Hope Church, at 2711 N.E. Andresen Road, Vancouver.