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Pacific Northwest braces for freezing temperatures

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Parts of the Pacific Northwest are bracing for freezing temperatures in the coming days, as potentially dangerous winter weather conditions continue to grip the region and other parts of the country.

The National Weather Servicehas warned that wind chills on Thursday could plunge to zero degrees in Portland, Oregon, and potentially plummet to 25 degrees below zero in parts of the Cascades in northern Oregon and southern Washington state.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency starting Wednesday due to the forecasted severe cold weather. Multnomah County, home to Portland, also has declared an emergency.

The city and the county said they will open four severe weather shelters Wednesday night for as long as conditions require.

Seattle has also opened additional shelter space, including at City Hall, according to King County's regional homeless authority. Officials said some shelters could remain open until Saturday.

Snowfall blanketed areas north of Seattle and parts of the northern Cascades on Tuesday, disrupting air travel and halting traffic on mountain passes.

In Canada, the Vancouver Airport Authority said it will be temporarily limiting arriving international flights from Wednesday through Friday morning due to “congestion” in its airfield. Heavy snow Tuesday prevented “a significant number of aircraft" from departing the city's YVR airport for several hours on Tuesday, resulting in mass cancellations.

Improving conditions on Wednesday facilitated some arrivals and departures but delays and cancellations are still expected, airport officials said.

While air traffic improved slightly at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Wednesday, with 49 flights cancelled as of 10:30 a.m. compared to hundreds the previous day, delays were still impacting some 200 flights, according to online tracker FlightAware.

Driving conditions could remain dangerous across the region due to icy roads.

In Portland, transportation officials said they covered roads with more than 4,000 gallons of de-icer on Tuesday night.

One person died in an accident on Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge on Tuesday when a semi-truck collided with their SUV. The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said the thin layer of ice on the major highway may have been a contributing factor.

In Washington, heavy snow in parts of the Cascades closed two of the main roadways across the state on Tuesday.

Multiple spinouts stopped traffic in both directions at Snoqualmie Pass, a mountain pass on Interstate 90 about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Seattle. U.S. Highway 2 over Stevens Pass, Highway 12 over White Pass and Highway 97 over Blewett Pass were also all closed Tuesday afternoon in both directions due to spinouts and crashes, the Washington Department of Transportation said. By Tuesday evening, passes on Highway 2, Highway 12 and Highway 97 had reopened. Snoqualmie Pass reopened shortly before 9 p.m.

“Be prepared for adverse weather,” transportation officials said on Twitter. “Crews have more wrecks to clear & continue to clear snow.”

The agency said it had deployed plows to major thoroughfares across the region and said its maintenance crews will be working through the night for the next several days.

Includes previous reporting by The Associated Press.

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