PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Monday is proving to be another tough day to travel in Oregon and southwest Washington as the effects of a winter storm continue to cause issues.
Though the snow is expected to dissipate Monday, there was fresh snow in areas of the Willamette Valley Monday morning. Main roads and highways are snowy and icy, while some backroads remain slushy.
Oregon’s diverse landscapes and even Portland’s microclimates can create challenging road conditions from the valley floor to the West Hills.
“Any place that’s got a little elevation on it — that is going to be a trouble spot,” Shelley Snow of ODOT said.
ODOT and PBOT crews are out in full force, but they have a warning for your morning commute.
“The not so good news is we’re going to see more snow tonight and it’s getting cold out there in places — and that means black ice,” Snow said.
Be aware: Portland’s plows always have their metal blades hovering an inch off the ground –leaving some snow behind.
“It’s less about preserving the blades as it is a about preserving the roadway,” explained John Brady of PBOT.
PBOT says they can’t scrape snow down to the pavement, or else they’ll remove paint on the streets — causing costly repairs.
Once snow hits an inch or more, plows will remove what they can while simultaneously dropping, sand, salt, gravel or deicer to give tires some traction.
“But I think it’s as important in every storm that people are aware of the weather. Aware of the road conditions of both where they’re starting and where they’re going,” Brady said.
PBOT has it’s priorities, starting with emergency routes (for fire and ambulance),then public transit routes followed by commuter roads.
While ODOT is using salt on all interstates and major highways in the Portland metro area, PBOT mainly limits it’s use of salt to steep areas in the West Hills.
A couple years ago, PBOT asked city council for $1 million in new tools like rubber blades which would allow them to plow and scrape down the pavement.
However, city council did not choose to invest in that and to switch over to rubber blades would require them to invest in new equipment. So, we are stuck with hovering metal blades for now.
Crews will start plowing once it hits about an inch of snow. If it is less than an inch — deicer, sand and gravel
Tuesday morning in particular is when PBOT anticipates black ice. PBOT says anti-icer is best when its dry, but says it can still work when it’s a little wet out.
Crews were out in Southwest Portland early Monday morning de-icing and plowing the roads.
Drivers Monday morning slid all over many roads, including one spot as drivers got off Hwy 26 at SW Jefferson and 20th. Drivers trying to turn left often slid into the oncoming traffic lane.
The biggest problem is that the pavement looks clear, but the ice is nearly invisible. Both PBOT and ODOT have dozens of crews out using various de-icing techniques but the worry is that the cycle of snow falling-temps-falling-icy roads will continue to make driving an issue.
Some of the many incidents and crashes
Icy conditions led to a multi-vehicle crash involving a TriMet bus near Meridian Park in Tualatin late Monday morning. Officials say one person was hurt and has been taken to the hospital. Southwest 65th Street is closed while crews clean the area.
Southwest Grabhorn Road near Farmington Road in Beaverton closed after multiple crashes were reported off of Cooper Mountain. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said cars have been sliding when coming down the hill. Deputies are bringing a sander to the area.
Forest Grove Fire said one person was hurt in a crash on Highway 47 near Diley Road.
135th Street between Fern and Walnut in Tigard is closed due to icy conditions.
I-84 Eastbound at Frontage Road was closed briefly after a semi-truck crashed and was leaking fuel, according to the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
The tough spot for travel will be in the mountains. If you don’t have the gear or the experience, avoid mountain travel on Monday.
TriMet crews chained buses to deal with the snow and ice. That means buses will not go any faster than 25 mph, so passengers should be prepared to wait a little bit — dress warmly and budget for extra time.
TriMet will also continue to provide free rides to anyone who is going to a warming shelter.
Bus routes 18-Hillsdale, 51- Vista and 63-Washington Park/Arlington Heights are canceled due to winter weather conditions.
MAX trains are moving normally but the possibility of ice freezing on the power lines is always a winter concern.
Portland road crews were out on Sunday and through the night but with the overnight temperature drop, they were concerned about the road conditions Monday morning.
“We are very concerned about the temperatures dropping tonight, and staying below freezing tomorrow,” said ODOT spokesperson Hannah Schafer. “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.”
PBOT crews were out all night de-icing the roads, according to John Brady from PBOT.
As temperatures warm up Brady said some ice will melt in places, “but other [places], like shaded spots, underpasses and overpasses can remain icy.”
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.
When asked what areas drivers should be wary of, David House with ODOT said “every area.”
The department is focusing on busy highways, bridges and overpasses.
“No matter how you get around, whether by car or by foot, bicycle, bus, give yourself extra time,” said House. “Expect slippery conditions just getting to your car, getting to the bus stop.”
Many roads were closed for hours on Sunday. Icy roadways shut down parts of Hwy 26 and Hwy 6 was closed after icy roads led to numerous cars going off the road into ditches.
Washington Department of Transportation crews have been out pre-treating and plowing the roads, especially the higher priority routes including I-5, SR 24, I 205 and SR 500.
Celeste Dimichina from WSDOT said roads are mainly clear in the area but cautions drivers on the road to remain wary.
Around 7:20 a.m. WSDOT posted to Twitter a semi-truck crashed on I-5 Northbound near Dike Road closing all lanes for nearly 45 minutes. Crews have since cleared the area.
Delays and cancellations are affecting flights at PDX on Monday, especially Alaska Airlines.
Around 250 flights in and out of Sea-Tac in Seattle have been cancelled, which is having a ripple effect on PDX.
At least 16 flights were canceled for Portland Monday, and Alaska Airlines canceled about 120 flights nationwide.