‘Atmospheric river’ douses drought in Clark County

Western Washington has received so much rain over the last two months that the drought conditions that plagued the area over the summer have been erased. The pattern continued Friday when an “atmospheric river” — a long, narrow band of moisture — dropped more rain on soggy Clark County.

By 10 a.m. Friday, the weather station at Pearson Field had recorded 2.19 inches of rain since Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. More rain was expected to fall through Saturday afternoon.

“Some areas could see another half-inch of precipitation, up to maybe an inch-and-a-half, inch-and-three-quarters,” said David Bishop of the National Weather Service.

Despite the recent heavy rainfall, Bishop says it’s all part of the normal weather pattern for this time of year.

“Typically, our wettest months here in the Pacific Northwest are November and December,” he said.

With the rain coming so soon after this summer’s wildfires, extreme high temperatures and drought conditions, it just seems like this fall has been rainier than usual.

“Getting a whole bunch of precipitation seems like out of the normal … but this is relatively normal for the area. Having an atmospheric river come into the area is not out of the question either,” Bishop said.

However, the rainfall Western Washington has received, especially in the past two days, is greater than average.

According to Weather Service reports, Vancouver saw 3.87 inches of rainfall in September, well above the average of 1.43 inches of rain, and another 3.73 inches fell in October, again above the monthly average of 3.41 inches. The city saw 3.42 inches of rainfall in the first 11 days of November, more than half of the normal 5.51 inches.

Don’t expect any relief from the rain next week either. Following a brief drying out on Sunday, the Weather Service expects an upper-level trough to drop from Canada on Sunday night, bringing more rain as the workweek begins.

“That’s expected to continue through Tuesday afternoon or so,” Bishop added. “It could be possible to see another 2 inches on the high side.”

Roads and power lines

The rain has made a mess of roads, with drivers finding standing water along curbs and low-lying areas. Crews from Clark Public Utilities, Washington State Department of Transportation and Clark County Public Works have been working extra hours to keep storm drains clear, roads open and power lines free from downed limbs and branches.

“Nature is reminding us that we’re in the midst of storm season. Since the start of the week, we’ve experienced only a few outages. Those that did happen were resolved quickly,” said Dameon Pesanti, media specialist for Clark Public Utilities. “We’re keeping an especially close eye on the weather over these next few days and we’re prepared for whatever it brings. As always, our dispatchers, servicemen and line crews are ready 24/7 to respond when outages occur.”

Pesanti urged anyone who finds their power out to report it right away. He said some residents hesitate to report outages because they think their neighbors have already called, or that the utility already knows about it. That’s not always true, he said.

“The more reports we get, the faster we can locate the problem and make the repair. PowerLine is a fast, automated service at 360-992-8000. Customers can also report them on the home page of our website,” Pesanti said.

In addition, everyone should have an outage kit on hand — including flashlights, extra batteries, nonperishable food, a charging block for electronic devices and more, he said.

While most homes have been safe from the weather, drivers haven’t been so lucky. The recent rain brought widespread pooling and flooding to Vancouver’s streets and highways. City crews spent Thursday night clearing drains and responding to urgent stormwater issues. Vancouver residents are encouraged to clear clogged storm drains if it’s safe to do so.

To report standing water or flooding in Vancouver, call 360-487-8177. For county road concerns, call 564-397-2446 or go to https://clark.wa.gov/public-works/report-park-road.

Commute a mess

The rain turned Friday’s morning commute into a prolonged mess. Multiple crashes Friday morning on Interstate 205 and state Highway 14 were reportedly related to the weather. Interstate 5 had sections of standing water throughout Clark County. Other highways had similar conditions.

“In advance of any winter storm, whether it’s heavy rain or snow and ice, our crews start doing work in advance of the storm rolling in,” said Tamara Greenwell, communications manager for WSDOT’s Southwest Region.

She said crews began clearing storm drains and catch basins earlier in the week, but some areas were overwhelmed by the rainfall.

“There are times when there is so much rain, those areas can overflow. That’s when we need drivers to slow down and drive for the conditions,” Greenwell said.

Drivers also need to put more space between them and the car in front of them to allow for longer stopping distances.

“One thing we recommend is for folks to download our app, where they can check real-time traffic and weather conditions before heading out. Know the conditions before you head out. Check the weather; check the traffic … does it make sense to maybe delay your trip?” Greenwell said.

Real-time maps can be found on WSDOT’s website at https://wsdot.com/travel/real-time/map.

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