Northwest storm leaves hundreds of thousands without power

By AP staff (Associated Press) and OPB staff (OPB)
Feb. 14, 2021 5:37 p.m. Updated: Feb. 14, 2021 11:53 p.m.

Tens of thousands of people remained without power in the Pacific Northwest after a winter storm blanketed the region with ice and snow and made travel treacherous.


The storm has left as much as a foot of snow in the northern Willamette Valley and Southwest Washington.

Andy Bryant, with the National Weather Service, said Portland tied a record for single-day snowfall in February: “This will definitely be one remembered in the years to come.”

Freezing rain and ice had the biggest impact. About an inch of ice accumulated in the central Willamette Valley, bringing down trees in the Salem area.

Bryant said temperatures in the Willamette Valley and the Gorge should rise above freezing by Monday evening. “So it kind of becomes this battle between this low-level cold air that’s coming into the Portland area through the Gorge and this overall much warmer air mass that’s moving in through the west,” Bryant said.

Forecasters expect to see more normal weather patterns return later in the week.

An ice storm warning was in effect in the Willamette Valley Sunday afternoon. The National Weather Service has that warning in place until 6 a.m. Monday. Forecasters said Sunday could bring another 2 inches of snow, and a quarter inch of ice. Overnight, another half inch of ice could form. Conditions remain extremely dangerous, and residents are advised to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

Portland General Electric said Sunday that about 189,000 customers remain without service on Sunday morning. At peak, about 253,000 PGE customers were affected Saturday. At least 4,000 PGE power lines have been brought down by ice and tree limbs, and multiple transmission lines have been severely damaged, the utility said.

The power outages in the Portland region could extend throughout the weekend for some, said Elizabeth Lattanner, a spokeswoman for PGE.

“In storms like these, restoration takes time given all of the challenges our crews face in getting to restoration sites and repairing those outages,” Lattanner said on Saturday. “We have more than 600 PGE and contract personnel responding to the storm — it’s all hands on deck.”

The extreme conditions, loss of power and transportation problems prompted Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency for the greater Portland area Saturday afternoon.


“Crews are out in full force now and are coordinating with local emergency response teams on communications for emergency services, such as warming centers,” Brown said in a statement. “I’m committed to making state resources available to ensure crews have the resources they need on the ground.”

Winter storms and extreme cold affected much of the U.S. West, particularly endangering homeless communities. Volunteers and shelter staffers were trying to ensure homeless residents in Casper, Wyoming, were indoors as the National Weather Service warned of wind chill reaching as much as 35 degrees below zero over the weekend. Authorities in western Washington and western Oregon opened warming shelters in an effort to protect homeless residents from the wet and cold.

The ice and snowfall caused treacherous driving conditions, forcing the regional transit agency TriMet to suspend all bus and train service in the region at one point Saturday. A note on their website Sunday morning says that “bus, MAS and LIFT service is limited. ... Portland Streetcar service is suspended.” Check their alerts webpage for the latest.

Eastbound lanes of Interstate 84 are again open between Troutdale at exit 17 and Hood River at exit 62. ODOT closed that 45 miles of highway at 9 p.m. Friday because of blowing snow, icy roads and strong winds. Crews worked through the night Saturday night using plows, graders and snow blowers and the road can safely open again.

Portland International Airport was reporting dozens of canceled flights Sunday afternoon. Check here for the full list.

Police in Salem, Oregon, also warned residents in Marion and Polk counties to watch for downed power lines and falling tree limbs, and the Oregon State Police said fallen trees blocked several roads across the region.


More from across the region

Some Washington residents were also socked in by the weather, with snow falling throughout the Seattle region Saturday and freezing rain falling along the coast in Grays Harbor County.

The Washington State Patrol reported a large accident on Interstate 90 east of Seattle involving 15 collisions. Three vehicles rolled over, but apparently there were no serious injuries.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Sunday morning said that the airport was open and operating. There have been a number of cancellations, however, so flyers are encouraged to check with their airlines before heading to the airport.

Heavy snowfall also led to dangerous driving conditions in parts of eastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho, with Malheur County, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho, expected to get as much as 6 inches of snow by Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather Service said all three states should brace for another surge of winter moisture to hit Sunday night, potentially leading to more heavy snowfall through Monday. The “unsettled winter conditions” would likely continue throughout the week, the National Weather Service said Saturday morning.

The heavy snow made for dangerous avalanche conditions in the many areas across the Olympics and Cascades mountain ranges, with large avalanches possible. Officials with the Payette Avalanche Center in west-central Idaho also warned of increasing avalanche risk in the days ahead.

Idaho’s neighbors to the east were blasted by brutally frigid weather, with the National Weather Service warning of dangerous wind chills in Montana and Wyoming. The wind chills were expected to reach as low as 50 degrees below zero in Billings, Montana.