Snow, ice and freezing rain started in western Oregon Saturday morning, laying the groundwork for hazardous driving conditions this weekend and heading into the beginning of the work week.The National Weather Service says 4 1/2 inches of snow fell at the Eugene Airport Saturday, with Cottage Grove, Brownsville, Salem, Dallas and other towns and cities in the southern and central Willamette Valley receiving anywhere from 2-to-3 inches.
In Portland, snowfall was less severe with the metro area receiving anywhere from 1/4 of an inch to 1/2 inch. depending on elevation.
“We started off so cold and dry that it took longer than we were thinking to moisten up,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Colby Neuman said of the smaller accumulations in the Portland metro area.
But for Sunday, the entire Willamette Valley is in store for a round of freezing rain that could complicate travel Monday morning, says Neuman.
Here comes round 2! Wind and ice make roads treacherous so stay home and stay safe. If traveling, slow down, be alert. #OregonDOT.— Oregon DOT (@OregonDOT) January 8, 2017
“We’re going to see widespread freezing rain across pretty much the entire Willamette Valley [Sunday] morning, and then we’re going to start seeing temperatures warm up from south to north,” he said.
But don’t expect things to warm enough to thaw out those slick roads, Neuman says.
“In the Portland metro area, I think it’s going to be pretty slow to thaw. So a lot of what we see this afternoon and evening, we don’t expect a huge change for people when they wake up tomorrow morning.”
The Oregon Department of Transportation says it is using all available resources to make sure roads are safe in time for the Monday morning commute. But, he warns that drivers should avoid the roads Sunday as the ice and freezing rain will make for dangerous driving conditions.
“The thing that’s bugging us more than anything else right now is the ice. We’re really at the beginning of a new round of ice right now. That’s really a bigger problem right now than snow. The message we’re trying to get out is that people need to stay off the road, stay home and stay safe today,” ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton said Sunday morning.
Chains or traction devices now required on I-84 Portland to Hood River. Stay home, stay safe. #OregonDOT.— Oregon DOT (@OregonDOT) January 8, 2017
Oregon State Police said it responded to more than 750 traffic incidents across the state between Friday night and Sunday morning. The incidents included 91 road hazards, 266 disabled vehicles and 394 reported crashes.
A snowstorm that hit the Portland metro area in mid-December brought the region to a grinding halt when the methods ODOT and other road crews use to treat roads proved to be ineffective. Hamilton says that road crews are laying rock salt down in some areas, including a 2-mile stretch of the Sunset Highway.
The department is evaluating best practices for the use of rock salt and will continue to monitor forecasts throughout the day Sunday and overnight to formulate the best plan of attack for the region’s roads.
Late Sunday morning, ODOT lifted a chain requirement on Interstate 5 from milepost 186 to 282 after conditions improved. But a chain requirement remains in place on Interstate 84 from Portland to Hood River, and from Pendleton to La Grande due to slick conditions. Blizzard-like conditions forced ODOT to close I-84 from Ontario to La Grande Sunday afternoon.
Portland International Airport is open, but airlines canceled many flights Saturday afternoon and evening, and more cancellations have been issued Sunday. Flight schedules are available at FlyPDX.com or via individual airlines.
Cold temperatures and even colder wind chills took a toll as well. Portland Police reported finding a 52-year-old woman dead in a downtown parking garage, appearing to have died due to exposure to cold temperatures.
Cold temperatures are expected to remain through most of the day Sunday for the Willamette Valley, before rising slightly above freezing late Sunday and into Monday morning.
In Portland, TriMet reported major delays for all MAX lines Sunday morning and encouraged riders to use regular bus service. Some buses are operating on snow routes. Riders can check TriMet.org/alerts for updates.
While the Valley is expecting ice, the Columbia River Gorge will receive more snow Sunday, according to the NWS. The western parts of the Gorge saw a light dusting of snow Saturday, but eastern towns such as Cascade Locks and Hood River received between 2 and 3 inches of snow, with a heavy round of snow expected Sunday.
After subzero wind chills in eastern Oregon, warming temperatures Saturday and Sunday are set to bring snow, sleet and ice.
The National Weather Service said parts of Central Oregon received as much as 10 inches of snow Saturday. According to volunteer snowfall accumulation reports, Bend received between 6 and 10 inches of snow, with Prineville and Redmond receiving anywhere from 6 to 8 inches.
Warming shelters in Portland and Gresham will remain open through the weekend. Multnomah County leaders urge people seeking shelter to call 211 or visit 211info.org for information about warming center locations and space.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.