Drivers brave the Gorge to travel home from holiday

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Interstate-84 through the Columbia River Gorge can be treacherous in the winter

TROUTDALE, Ore. (KOIN) — Snow fell through parts of the Gorge overnight Saturday and into Sunday morning. High winds and slick roads made the drive difficult for people traveling this morning.

Sunday was a busy day for travel as people returned home from their Thanksgiving holiday. KOIN 6 News spoke to drivers about some of the precautions they were taking to stay safe in the winter weather. Cathy Giffen said she stopped at a Hood River gas station to double check her wiper fluid.

“If I am traveling this way, I make sure I’m ready,” said Giffen. She told KOIN 6 News she spent Thanksgiving in Hood Canal and was headed back home to La Grande. She said she wasn’t looking forward to the high winds and slick roads through the area.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to be okay,’ and then I hit the Gorge,” said Giffen. “I have to get over a pass on the other end before it gets dark. I’m going to be okay, but I’m not happy.”

But just in case conditions change for the worse, Giffen is prepared for anything.

“I always have my sleeping bag,” she said. “I have a big gallon of water back here—big thing of water—and here’s my shovel, and my big 75-pound bag of sand.”

Giffen’s one warning to others: “If you don’t need to make the trip, don’t do it.”

While some were leaving for eastern Oregon, others were heading back into the city from out of town. Krysten Mitchell and Brian Riggs were trying to make it into Portland from Baker City. Mitchell said it was terrifying driving in extremely high winds. Both agreed that things got worse near La Grande where they had to drive on slush and ice.

“I make this drive all the time, and nothing like this,” said Mitchell. “We’re in this little car here and semis going by us trying to run us off the road. It’s been the scariest ride of my life.”

They said the drive from Baker City to Hood River took them 7.5 hours. Luckily, they made it through the worst parts of the Gorge, but said they would not do it over again.

Temperatures through Sunday night are expected to drop down to freezing, which may create icy road conditions that last into Monday morning. There is potential for black ice in some areas. Roads will be slick and drivers should exercise caution when driving over bridges.

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