Law enforcement responds to crashes, urges drivers to use caution in snow

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – With winter weather moving through Western Oregon and Washington, law enforcement and traffic agencies are warning people to avoid driving if possible. 

A 10-mile stretch of Highway 6 closed Sunday, going through the mountains from milepost 28 to milepost 38.

After a slushy start to the day, snowfall picked up on Highway 26 Sunday evening — reducing visibility for drivers. As temperatures dropped and water on the road froze, it made for some dangerous driving conditions.

Highway 26 was shut down Sunday afternoon. Seaside police announced it reopened around 4 p.m. with “chains required.”

“Of course it’s always nerve-wrecking, we just drive really slow,” Sarah Carter of Seaside said.

Cyrus Knox and Sarah Carter had dropped her daughter off in Portland and were heading back to Seaside when they stopped near Manning to chain up.

“We had to have chains to get on the road, so we had to stop before we got to the mountain to get chains on,” Carter explained.

“Stay home if you have to, I guess, it’s not very fun out here,” Knox said.

Another driver, Molliye McKinley, explained “the road was snow packed and covered pretty much kind of right out of Tillamook.”

McKinley sent KOIN 6 News photos from a backup on Highway 6 which the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office announced was closed just before 3:00 p.m.

“It was totally fine coming up from the Tillamook side, and as soon as we crested past the Brown’s Camp and came around the corner, that’s where everything went bad,” McKinley said.

KOIN 6 News interviewed her while she waited for the highway to reopen.

“Everyone was stopping, in the middle of the driving lane to stop and put chains on. It’s all about patience, patience, don’t rush it, everyone is waiting,” McKinley explained.

The snow and cold is expected to be an issue all week. A spokesperson for ODOT said with conditions like we are seeing this weekend, there will be a lot of water on the roads and black ice will be an issue when it freezes.

As for Portland, PBOT spokesperson Hannah Schafer said the snowfall has been varied around the city. The roads that crews have treated are doing ok this afternoon, but there is concern for the roads that haven’t been treated — especially when temperatures are forecasted to drop.    

“We are very concerned about the temperatures dropping tonight, and staying below freezing tomorrow. What that means is that anything that’s slushy out there is gonna turn to ice and anything that’s clear and wet is going to form black ice and so we really want folks to get out and do those last-minute errands before those temperatures drop,” Schafer said.

ODOT spokesperson Katherine Benenati explained “we really deal with it all here, what’s gonna be unique about this week is it’s gonna be freezing and refreezing. We’re asking drivers to be patient with us, be patient with other drivers, leave early, plan ahead,” Benenati said. “Tripcheck is your friend. Really give yourself more time than you think you’ll need and be patient out there.”

Schafer noted what makes this storm tricky is that they need an inch of snow on the ground to plow and there’s only been about a half inch in the Portland area and they know what’s on the ground is going to freeze. Schaefer is also advising that people stay home tomorrow if they don’t have to travel. 

Washington County Roads tweeted Sunday morning asking drivers to use caution while traveling. The agency said drivers should be prepared for slick roads and should keep a safe distance between vehicles. 

At around 10:30 a.m., Washington County Roads said the snow zone on 175th Avenue between Scholls Ferry Road and Rigert Road was active and drivers in that area are required to use traction devices. Officials say this area has a high elevation and a steep grade. 

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said it’s encouraging drivers to avoid unnecessary travel. The agency said deputies responded to several crashes around the county Sunday morning. 

The most significant crash in Marion County involved four or five vehicles, including a tow truck, on Orville Road near River Road, the sheriff’s office said. No one was injured in the crash.

“As snow melts today and freezes again tonight, we anticipate even more dangerous driving conditions by the time the morning commute arrives,” Sgt. Jeremy Landers from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in an email to KOIN.

The Salem Police Department is asking drivers to clear their cars of any snow or ice before hitting the road. Snow and ice on vehicles can reduce visibility. 

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