Ice covers Willamette Valley

By Steven DuBois / The Associated Press

Published Feb 9, 2014 at 12:01AM

Authorities warn against driving

PORTLAND — Public officials and police are warning people in storm-battered sections of Oregon to stay out of their cars.

Oregon State Police Lt. Steve Mitchell says troopers statewide have responded to about 600 weather-related crashes since Thursday, and assisted another 900 motorists who needed help.

Mitchell says most of the crashes have been minor, but there was a fatality Friday on Interstate 84 near Rooster Rock State Park. He says ice caused a driver to lose control, and the vehicle collided with a tree. The driver suffered serious injuries and his female passenger died. She was identified Saturday as 37-year-old Kimberly Hayes of Portland.

Travel is expected to remain hazardous through today, and those who must drive can expect delays.

— The Associated Press

PORTLAND — The last installment in a trilogy of Northwest storms caused scattered power outages Saturday, and there were expectations of more to come, as the snow turned to freezing rain and ice for a wide swath of Oregon.

The National Weather Service said Portland received 2 inches of snow before it changed to sleet around sunset, and it forecast a half-inch of ice accumulation by this morning. Elsewhere Saturday, freezing rain fell from the wine country southwest of Portland to the lower Willamette Valley south of Eugene, triggering an ice-storm warning that stretched for more than 100 miles.

“Snow is bad. But ice is worse,” said Miles Higa, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

More than 3,000 people in the Portland region were without power Saturday morning, but almost all had lights before noon. The number edged back up to about 400 by 6 p.m. and was expected to rise as it became icier late Saturday.

Farther south, power outages were reported Saturday near Silverton and Mt. Angel. And downed trees were said to have caused widespread outages in the rural communities near Eugene. The Springfield Utility Board, meanwhile, said 2,000 customers lost power, primarily in downtown and east Springfield.

The snow began swirling in Portland shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday, falling on top of streets and sidewalks packed with snow from storms that struck Thursday and Friday. Despite its northern location on the U.S. map, Portland sometimes goes an entire winter without snow, and residents and businesses were not prepared to shovel.

The transition to freezing rain was likely to make the roads extra treacherous and the sidewalks more slippery.

“The (Monday) morning commute could be a little sketchy,” Higa said.

Police and public officials have urged people not to drive, and that message was heeded by most as many streets were empty Saturday.

Residents also had fewer reasons to leave home as the Oregon Zoo, Portland Art Museum, Multnomah County Library and many shops were closed.

For bicyclists, the weather even doomed the annual “Worst Day of the Year Ride” scheduled for this weekend. Organizers had hoped to stage a 15-mile ride through downtown after announcing Thursday that its more challenging 46-mile event through the hills of west Portland was canceled for safety reasons.

“Alas, Mother Nature wins this round,” organizers announced on the event’s website Saturday.