Ice is a problem for roads. That goes for the Columbia River Gorge and eastern Oregon, where ice is still thick on highways and surface streets. In Portland, city officials are already responding to the effects of melting ice and snow - in the wake of heavy rain Wednesday.
The biggest problem for the Portland Bureau of Transportation is a landslide on West Burnside Street. The street is closed between NW 23rd Avenue uphill and NW Skyline Blvd. PBOT said a landslide Wednesday dumped about 75 cubic yards of dirt and debris on the westbound lanes.
PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said all the soil and branches — including a 15-foot diameter root ball — would fill about six dump trucks. Rivera said the situation is particularly tricky, because the street runs through a busy, residential area.
“We’ve had engineers out there, because there’s a house at the top of this landslide, about 50 feet up, overlooking Burnside, and that raises a lot of concern, understandably," Rivera said. "And we’ve been in touch with the homeowner there.”
Rivera said the Bureau of Transportation is still assessing the situation. A statement from PBOT said Thursday that the affected section of West Burnside "will remain closed through Friday afternoon, and potentially through next week, as crews work to clear a 50-foot tall landslide that looms over the roadway."
State officials are similarly working to re-open critical roads, but don't have clear estimates on when that will happen. Oregon Department of Transportation listed more than a dozen stretches of state and interstate highway as closed Thursday due to prolonged weather hazards. Interstate 84 remains closed between Troutdale and Hood River after the most recent round of snow and ice in the Columbia Gorge.
“Conditions are still really bad in the Gorge," said ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton. "We have power lines down, we have trees down, we have snow drifts across the road, we had to bring out some of our monster snowblowers that we keep up on Mount Hood. We had a truck, until at least early [Thursday], that had tipped over and was jack-knifed on the highway.”
A long stretch of I-84 is closed farther east. It’s closed eastbound from Pendleton to Baker City. In the other direction, it’s closed from Ontario to Pendleton. Officials say the problems are not as extensive as the closure suggests. They say that accommodations along the highway are limited. So officials close the road, rather than risk vehicles and drivers getting stuck in the cold.
The ODOT spokesman for the eastern region, Tom Strandberg, said from a logistical standpoint, re-opening the east end of I-84 will likely depend on getting the highway opened through the Gorge first. And Strandberg said that was not expected to happen before Friday at the earliest.