Severe Weather - Public Works Response

 
News & Updates:

8 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017: One more day. Temperatures are forecast to break slightly above freezing Monday afternoon, before dipping down again. The break and higher temperatures will come on Tuesday, along with heavy rains and different challenges. Until then, Vancouver, like most of the areas in our region, remains frozen. Sunshine has helped warm the surface afternoons, but temperatures have stayed been below freezing and some streets are partially or mostly covered with a thick, bumpy layer of compacted ice or snow. Deicer and equipment have had limited effect in biting into and cutting through the ice under these conditions. If you see a truck passing by with the snowplow up, please keep in mind that snowplows cannot scrape off the thick layer of snow/ice; the blades ride about an inch or so along the street surface, pushing away snow and slush. These past couple of days, what remains on the City's streets has been too compacted, solidified and frozen to plow.

The National Weather Service has forecast heavy rains and potential flooding Tuesday through Thursday. That heavy rain, compounded with all the melting snow and ice, will place a lot of pressure on stormwater drains. Residents may wish to clear ice or snow-filled gutters at home. 

Garbage & Recycling: As of Sunday evening, Waste Connections is planning to proceed with regular Monday garbage and recycling pickups. If the company determines that some residential streets are too slick and icy for their trucks to safely maneuver, updates will be posted on the Waste Connections' website at www.wcnorthwest.com.

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2 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017: Although the sun has been shining today, temperatures remain below or about freezing levels, and that is keeping street conditions in many parts of Vancouver frozen, too. A wintry, slush mix or packed snow on many priority routes, with some places showing bare pavement. A thick layer of snow and/or ice on many residential streets.

Vancouver Public Works crews have continued to plow what they could from major, priority streets and some side streets. But at this point, what’s on the surface is so compacted and frozen that progress is limited. Once sunshine has warmed the surface slightly, crews have been applying deicer in hopes of having it activate and break through. But given the current conditions, it's very slow going. And if some forecasts are right, Vancouver may not see temperatures break and rise above freezing, enough to really thaw things out until about Tuesday, Jan. 17. And then come the rains, raising fears around the region about localized flooding.

In addition to continuing to try to improve streets where possible, Operations crews will also be tackling the storm-caused downed trees and limbs in and/or along roadways and public rights of way. Vancouver Public Works wants residents to know that some of this work may be taking place through the night, and that it is being done as a public safety precaution to remove remaining debris before heavy rains quickly return next week. Crews will attempt to minimize noise to the extent that it is possible, and we ask Vancouver residents for their patience during this time. Please be alert to the possibility of crews and equipment in the roadway to get this work done.

Click here to read the most current Winter Storm Update that has been posted on the website and sent to media.

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9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, 2017: It's been a long, exhausting and disruptive week for all, but Vancouver Public Works crews are continuing to provide 24-coverage on streets. Weather conditions are not making it easy. After getting slammed with snow, iced with freezing rains, frosted with freezing fog, and topped off by temperatures at record lows, many main streets remain packed with snow or partially so, and many neighborhood streets remain extremely icy. Inclement weather fatigue is here. Everyone is ready to get back to normal. In the meantime, here is some information about what Public Works Operations crews are doing and updates from around the community:

Streets: Crews have continued to spread deicer on major routes where there are top/starts (intersections, for example), hills, overpasses, etc. Deicer is a great tool but even deicer has limitations under certain conditions. Please be aware that there are some important factors that can greatly lessen its effectiveness: A thick layer of snow and ice, a couple of inches thick. Ongoing compacting by vehicles. Severe freezes during nights, and temperatures at or near freezing during the day. And to get it all started, freezing rain on top of snow.

We have or are getting all of these. It is difficult for deicer to break through thick layers of compacted snow/ice. To get the most positive effect out of this tool, crews have been plowing what snow they can - though at this point, it's so compacted not much is coming off of major streets - and waiting until sunshine has warmed the surface slightly before applying deicer in hopes of having it activate and break through. As long as there's a thick layer and constant refreezing, it's going to be very slow going. Please know that we are continuing to do all we can to keep the City's priority routes, which serve public safety and emergency services, open.

Forecasters are now saying temperatures are likely to continue to crawl along below or near freezing until Tuesday, Jan. 17. That means the thaw will be very slow. There may even be freezing rain for the east part of the Vancouver-Portland area on Monday. Heavy rain will begin Monday night, with the greatest amounts Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing its own particular problems.

Other updates:

Second Saturday at the Water Center: This popular activity 1-3 p.m. at the Water Center has been rescheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21, due to snowy and icy conditions. While it will now take place on the third Saturday of the month, not the second, expect the same kind of fun for families. Please see www.cityofvancouver.us/watercenter.

MLK Jr. Day of Service: Icy and snowy conditions have resulted in rescheduling and cancellation of many events throughout the community. Click here to view a brief list. If the event you had hoped to attend is not here, please contact your event organizers.

Garbage & Recycling: At this time, regular Monday service is expected to take place on Jan. 16. However, if neighborhood streets are still slick and icy, that could change. Check Waste Connections' website at www.wcnorthwest.com for any possible schedule changes.

Trees, Pipes & More: Unhealthy trees may fail under the weight of heavy snow covering branches. Water pipes that have frozen when temperatures plummeted and stayed below freezing may finally burst when the thaw comes. Please click here to go to the section with links and information for information about what to do and who to call. Remember: If you can, help a neighbor. Thank you.

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4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017: Most priority streets that get plowed in Vancouver are currently either light packed snow or a slushy mix. Some bare pavement here and there, but that's mostly on hills and trouble spots where deicing was emphasized. At this time, Devine Road is now open, as are the City's other priority routes.

For those who travel Vancouver streets, please be aware that many of the west-facing traffic signals heads are still partially covered or obscured by snow. There may also be signs partially covered by wet snow. Please pay careful attention approaching intersections.

Vancouver Public Works crews have continued to plow off what snow they can from packed streets today. Deicing solution isn't as effective in cutting through a buildup in freezing weather. So to help it along, crews waited until later this afternoon, after the sun had had a chance to warm up the surface, to apply deicer to trouble spots. Conditions on many neighborhood and side streets are still extremely slick and difficult to travel. 

Temperatures barely breached the freezing mark today and are forecast to plunge into the teens tonight. That means slush and wet pavement are likely to freeze overnight. There's also a chance of freezing fog, further complicating travel during Friday morning's commute. The sun will shine again tomorrow, but don't look for a real thaw until about Sunday, when our normal rains are predicted to return.  

Sidewalks: Adjacent property owners are responsible for clearing sidewalks and making them passable. As more people begin to walk around neighborhoods and services return, they are looking for safe, passable paths through snow and ice. Please clear sidewalks, and if you can, reach out to those in your neighborhood who need a helping hand. Just be sure you do not shovel snow onto streets. When the thaw comes, all that snow needs to melt and go somewhere. Take steps in advance to avoid clogging drainage catch basins. 

Friday Garbage & Recycling: Due to conditions in neighborhoods, Waste Connections has canceled Friday, Jan. 13, garbage, recycling and yard debris collections in Vancouver and all of Clark County. Please visit the Waste Connections website at www.wcnorthwest.com for further service information.

Need assistance or wish to report a problem? Get information here!

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4:30 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017: While most of the City of Vancouver was fast asleep, Vancouver Public Works Operations street crews were plowing and clearing streets, laying down deicer as they went. Our round-the-clock effort to keep Vancouver’s major streets passable continues today. Currently, the City’s priority routes that connect public safety and emergency service are mostly hard packed snow or a slushy mix. Side streets and residential streets, which do not get plowed or deiced due to the demands of keeping major streets open, remain covered in snow and extremely slick. Please continue to avoid unnecessary travel. Those who do venture out should be prepared for winter driving conditions. Slow and steady, no fast stops or accelerations. Leave additional room to stop and between vehicles.

Many sidewalks are slick or snow covered, so drivers should be alert to pedestrians. Property owners are responsible for keeping adjacent sidewalks open. Residents are encouraged to lend a helping hand to neighbors where needed. When clearing sidewalks or driveways, do not pile snow into the roadway.

City offices are closed for the day due to slick, snow-covered streets and roads. Schools throughout the area are also closed, and drivers are urged to watch out for children playing in the snow.

Reminder: Waste Connections has canceled regular Thursday garbage and recycling collections in Vancouver and the rest of Clark County. Visit Waste Connections website at wcnorthwest.com or call 360-892-5370 for more information about service.

Need to report a problem or request Public Works service? Please see information below.

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6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017: Here's the plan: Public Works Operations street crews will deliver a combination one-two punch of plowing and deicing to try to prevent slushy and snow-packed streets from refreezing as temperatures drop this evening. To get the most out of existing resources, the Operations vehicles crews are using are mostly combination units - plows on front and some type of deicer on the back. Crews will plow slush and snow off the City’s priority streets, then deice as they go in an attempt to reduce slick conditions before Thursday morning's commute. View the latest update here.

City Offices: Due to slick road conditions and continued freezing temperatures, City of Vancouver offices normally open to the public will be closed tomorrow.

Garbage and Recycling: Due to hazardous snow and icy conditions in residential areas, Waste Connections has canceled garbage, recycling and yard debris collections for Thursday customers in Vancouver and all of Clark County. To get details on when service will resume, please visit Waste Connections website at www.wcnorthwest.com.

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6:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017: Vancouver Public Works Operations crews from our Streets team have been plowing major routes through the night and into the morning. Once the number of vehicles on the street diminished, crews were able to make real progress. But it's an ongoing task, and following a shift change this morning, we will be out plowing again.

At the same time, crews are also dealing with downed trees reported in roadways. If power lines are close or tangled in those trees, crews can't safely remove them until Clark Public Utilities has had time to shut down or remove the power danger. Please be patient as we work with our partners to get that job done.

Remember, please, that side streets and residential streets do not get plowed, and they are covered in snow. If it's not critical that you travel, please stay off the roads and safe inside. No traction or two-wheel drive - don't even think twice. These conditions are likely to be with us for a while. Remember to watch out for pedestrians. It is the responsibility of property owners to clear adjacent sidewalks. If you can, lend a hand to neighbors who might need help.

Other Updates:

All City of Vancouver offices are closed today due to severe winter weather impacts.

Waste Connections has canceled regular Wednesday garbage and recycling collections in Vancouver and the rest of Clark County. Questions? Call Waste Connections 360-892-5370. Please note: All three transfer stations in Clark County are also closed today.

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10:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017: Heavy snowfall around Vancouver. More crew were called in to help with the plowing effort, because that's how much snow we have here. And it keeps snowing. All major, priority streets in Vancouver remain open at this time, but it's an ongoing effort by Operations Street crews to make it that way. There were a couple of brief incidents of low-riding vehicles briefly blocking a lane on a couple of western routes, but that problem seems to have been resolved with them now off the streets. If you don't need to drive, please don't. Let plows and deicers do their work. There are many streets and hills where problems have been reported, with vehicles stuck and without traction, and many accidents reported on highways and ramps throughout the region. Best place to be right now is safe and dry inside. We may see more snow into the early morning hours. Please be aware this will likely affect other services, including garbage and recycling collections.

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3 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017: Don't be surprised if Vancouver wakes up with a blanket of snowfall on Wednesday morning. The National Weather Service in Portland has issued a Winter Weather Advisory in effect from 7 p.m. today to 1 p.m. Wednesday. Forecasts call for snow reaching down to the valley floor (Vancouver's elevation) beginning late this evening and continuing through the night. Or we may get snow showers. Either way, please be assured that our Operations Street crews and equipment are geared up and ready for this next potential bout of winter weather. We'll be working late into the night and early Wednesday morning to keep priority routes open and functioning. The timing of this event could easily complicate the Wednesday morning commute, however. Please drive for the conditions and be prepared to go slow. 

In addition, temperatures are expected to drop again over the next few days. That means more potential problems with water pipes. From this past Thursday, Jan. 5, to Monday, Jan. 9, our Operations Water crews responded to 94 calls from Utility customers who needed help turning off the water after their pipes had frozen and burst. Please remember that customers are responsible for insulating and repairing water pipes on their property. Pipes in attics, garages, basements and crawl spaces need protection when temperatures get and stay below freezing. 

Want to report a problem or request Public Works service? See contact information below.

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10:15 p.m., Monday, January 9, 2017: As of this time, Operations Street crews report seeing rain only, no snow, on Vancouver streets. Temperatures remain elevated into tomorrow, decreasing as night comes on, so we will see what Tuesday evening brings.

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5:45 a.m., Monday, Jan. 9, 2017: Drive carefully this morning if you have to drive early! Most of the major streets are wet, but do not be deceived! There are some isolated icy spots around the City, especially on the east side, and many side streets and residential streets currently have a thin glaze of ice. With the pre-dawn darkness and rainy conditions, that makes it hard to tell where those sneaky slick spots exist. If you can, consider delaying driving until the temperatures warm up a bit, particularly if you're on the eastern border of Vancouver. Caution: Be prepared for sidewalks, driveways and parking lots to be extremely slick with a thin glaze of ice.  

Monday garbage & recycling services:  Waste Connections has informed the City that it will be delaying service for residential and commercial routes by 2-4 hours due to the very icy conditions in many areas this morning.                                                       

Please note: Severe weather updates are posted only as needed to respond to conditions. 

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Vancouver Public Works keeps a close eye on weather conditions and impacts to streets and utilities. News and updates will be posted at the top of this page when severe weather arises. Updates are also posted on Facebook at www.facebook.com/VancouverPublicWorks and on Twitter @VanPubWorksUS.

Learn more about Public Works' priorities during severe weather, along with tips for how you can weather a storm, below.

Street Priorities:

During severe weather, Vancouver Public Works prioritizes efforts to deliver the biggest impact to major routes and overpasses that provide the backbone for public safety. Neighborhood residential streets are not deiced or plowed. See information below describing street priorities for emergency and severe weather conditions.

Reporting Problems:

For urgent issues, such as traffic signal outages, downed trees blocking City streets, help turning off water when pipes have frozen, please call the Public Works Operations Center Dispatch directly at 360-487-8177. For calls outside of regular Operations office hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mon-Fri), simply follow the directions to connect with our after-hours service line. Not sure if the address is within the City of Vancouver? Check the City's website: www.cityofvancouver.us/CityLimitsMap.

For downed power lines, keep back and report to Clark Public Utilities at 360-992-8000 or 360-992-3000.

Please do not report urgent issues that need immediate attention through the MyVancouver app. Requests sent on the MyVancouver app and the Public Works' online service request form are typically handled the next working day when submitted and received after regular office hours.

Traffic Signal Outages:

During power outages and interruptions, Vancouver's traffic signals will go dark. When power comes back on or flickers, the signals will restart as flashing red. When signals are dark or flashing red, treat these intersections as a four-way stop, and proceed with caution.

Garbage and recycling updates:

Remember, snowy and icy conditions impact garbage and recycling collections, too. Should service be canceled due to severe weather conditions, customers who are missed will get a call from Waste Connections of Washington, providing they have a current phone number. For questions related to cancellations, schedules and accounts, contact Waste Connections by email at customerhelp@wasteconnections.com or call 360-892-5370

Customers who've also signed up for alerts using Vancouver's free RecycleRight app will also get a notice via their app choice of contact. Get the app here: www.cityofvancouver.us/recycleright.

 


Severe Weather: Are you prepared?

The City of Vancouver's Department of Public Works encourages businesses and residents to plan ahead and be alert to avoid many problems associated with severe weather. The handy information below can provide you with the facts and tips you may need should severe weather strike.

Top Priorities for Vancouver's Streets:

There are more than 1,800 lane miles of streets in the City of Vancouver. When severe weather hits hard, Vancouver Public Works prioritizes its response to provide the strongest level of support for our community's life-saving public safety network.

Highest Priority
  • First on the priority list is the critical network of arterials that connect police, fire and emergency medical services. ;Public Works crews also work closely with Vancouver Fire and Vancouver Police to clear the way to specific sites where emergency access is needed. During major snow and ice storms, just keeping the top priority critical streets open and passable is a process that has to be repeated over and over again, around the clock.
Other Priorities
  • After critical public safety network of arterials come the remaining arterials, selected collectors, snow bus routes and key streets around schools and hills.
  • As weather conditions, resources and time allow, next come the collectors and public parking lots.
Residential Neighborhood Streets - What You Should Know

During severe weather, the effort to support public safety is a constant job, night and day. That is especially true during long bouts of snow and ice. Residential streets do not get plowed due to these demands and the city’s limited resources, as well as the difficulties presented by numerous driveways and cars parked along residential curbs.

Residents are encouraged to be prepared in advance for the possibility of severe weather. Be sure you have the traction devices, snow shovels and other severe winter weather necessities you may need while supplies are readily available. During and immediately after severe winter storms, please avoid driving if at all possible. When travel is necessary, leave additional time to reach your destination safely.

Fortunately, major snowstorms of significant duration are not a common occurrence in Vancouver. Winters here are generally rainy and mostly temperate, compared with other regions. When it does snow in Vancouver, it rarely stays for long.


Preventing and Handling Frozen Water Pipes

The best way to prevent water pipes from freezing is to take steps before temperatures plummet. Before freezing temperatures arrive:

  • Disconnect all garden hoses and shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets.
  • Drain in-ground irrigation systems according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Protect outside faucets and hose bibs with insulation. Wrapping them with newspaper or rags covered with plastic is a good resort if you don't have molded foam-insulating covers, designed specifically for that task and frequently found in hardware sections and stores.
  • Seal leaks around pipes that allow cold air to seep inside.
  • Insulate pipes near outer walls, in crawl spaces, basements, garages and/or attics to guard against freezing.
  • Locate your home’s water shut-off valve and make sure it works, before it's ever needed in an emergency.
During freezing conditions:
  • Allow a trickle of water to drip at night from an indoor faucet, preferably one located along an exterior wall and/or farthest from where your water service connects with the main water line.
  • Open cupboard doors under sinks in kitchens and bathrooms to allow more heat to reach water pipes.
  • Vacationing? Have someone check your house to make sure the heat is still on and water is working properly. Or drain and shut off the water system, with the exception of indoor sprinkler systems.
If your water pipes freeze:
  • Please remember that you are responsible for protecting and repairing water pipes on your property should any breaks occur.
  • If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
  • NEVER try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame.
  • Without water and suspect a problem is at the meter? Please call the City's Operations Center at (360) 487-8177 for further assistance.