PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — ODOT officials announced just after 5 p.m. Wednesday that Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon reopened after stretches of the road and Highway 20 over the Santiam Pass were closed due to heavy snow and spun-out vehicles early Wednesday morning.
I-84 closed after multiple slide-offs in the area and disabled vehicles blocked the roadway, according to ODOT.
Nearly a 50 mile stretch of I-84 closed in both directions from milepost 216 in La Grande to milepost 265 near Pendleton. Additionally, 72 miles of the interstate is shut down to trucks driving westbound between Baker City and Ontario.
Rain fell steadily around 8 p.m. Thursday in Troutdale, making for a wet and windy conditions for drivers.
Further east on I-84 freezing slush and snow are making for some tricky driving conditions.
It’s been a tough couple days for folks in the gorge. The concern is that the water from melting snow will freeze in areas like Cascade Locks. KOIN 6 News found a business owner racking to clear his parking lot before the temperatures dropped.
At the Bridge of the Gods Motel, Cabins and RV Park, owner Roger Hicks was plowing late into the evening.
“We’ve been plowing as fast as we can. We’ve had almost, what felt like about 2 feet of snow in 24 hours, we just can’t get on top of it. It’s like ureal,” Hicks said.
Hicks says his snow-thrower was no match for the heavy wet drifts. He’s thankful his favorite repair shop was able to fix the plow — saving the day.
“We would have been really stranded if it wasn’t for SK Motorsports, dropped what they were doing and fixed this,” Hicks said.
Now he’s in a race against mother nature to try to get the lot cleared before temperatures drop.
“That’s what we’re trying to do is get it cleaned up before it starts turning to ice,” Hicks explained.
That was also a concern for commuter Jeff Walker.
“Last night, it was mostly dry snow, and with this rain that we’ve got now, it’s pretty much all turned to slush so hopefully it doesn’t get too cold and freeze up,” Walker said.
He drives from cascade locks to Portland every day for work. He says over the last couple days, the commute has been “horrible.”
His best advice:“don’t try to get anywhere too fast, keep your spacing, there’s a lot of high water between here and Portland so, just drive at a decent speed, take your time.”
“I like to jump in it,” Travis Ash of the Cascade Locks said. Ash told KOIN 6 News he’s actually been enjoying the wild weather.
Jeff and Roger say it’s been an unusual couple days for Cascade Locks. “This is the most we’ve had in a few years and usually it’s just a little bit here and there, and then this just kind of dumped on us,” Jeff said.
“About 1 foot is kind of average the most, but sometimes two to three inches, but not almost 2 feet in 24 hours. That’s a lot,” Roger said.
Jeff says to watch out for ponding water on the road, which he says can cause you to hydroplane. A KOIN 6 News crew ran into a lot of standing water on I-84 and it made for some tricky moments on the road.
U.S. 20 was closed in both directions from Santiam Junction at milepost 75 to Camp Sherman Road at milepost 91. The pass reopened late Wednesday morning. The Oregon Department of Transportation said the road was shut down after several vehicles spun out due to lingering snow.
“One of the saddest parts of our recent winter wallop is realizing that it’s early January with plenty more winter still to come,” said ODOT. “Sadder, though, was waking up Wednesday to winter weather again making a mess on state roads around the state. We’re in for more rain and rising river levels in the lowlands and more snow in the upper elevations.”
OR 204, OR 245 and OR 334 near Athena in Umatilla County are all closed.
All of Highway 26 is back open Wednesday. The stretch from Mt. Hood to Warm Springs was closed Tuesday because of heavy snow. Highway 26 was closed earlier this week at Rhododendron.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said they have crews trying to keep the road clear, but if conditions get dangerous enough they would close it again.
Just past Rhododendron, a KOIN 6 News crew saw drivers chaining up. One woman said she was taking her 7-year-old son up to Meadows to ski for the first time.
“We’re putting chains on for the first time, and we’re gonna try it out. We were sliding around a bit, but more or less it’s been OK,” driver Shaina Traisman said.
ODOT says if you are planning on driving up to the mountain, or in any spot with snow, drive slowly and carefully.
They also say it’s not a bad idea to have a kit in case you are stuck in a back-up and have items like cell phone chargers, water, and snacks.
The Oregon Office of Emergency Management is urging drivers to avoid hazardous roads. OEM said their crews are monitoring the roadways, while ODOT warns drivers should be prepared for lengthy delays as more snow is forecasted for higher elevations.
“We have severe weather advisories, watches and warnings all over the state, including threats of flooding caused by heavy rain and snowmelt,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps. “This can trigger debris flows and landslides in steep terrain, and the risk is higher in wildfire burn scars.”
Portland Fire and Rescue announced Wednesday evening that Highway 30 is closed after a landslide and a tree blocked lanes on NW Bridge Avenue near St. Helens Road. Crews are working to clear the scene.