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Transportation

Heavy snow closes some passes, highways in Washington and Oregon

A snow-covered highway is showing. Two figures appear to be performing work.
Washington State Department of Transportation
Snoqualmie Pass is closed Monday morning as crews perform avalanche control and heavy snow continues to fall. The state Department of Transportation says 19 inches of snow fell overnight.

Western Washington and Oregon were seeing a mix of rain and snow Monday while heavy snow, gusty winds, drifts and crashes shut down mountain passes and some highways.

Snoqualmie Pass over the Cascades in Washington was closed in both directions early Monday due to blowing snow, zero visibility and avalanche concerns. The state Department of Transportation said that the pass is expected to reopen around 8 p.m. Monday.

“It will (hopefully) open at 8 pm,” the Washington state Department of Transportation said on Twitter. “That means there will have been 18 hours to get your chains put on. So please do it. We don’t want to open and then have to close it again at 8:15 because of spin outs. Thanks!”

White Pass is also closed due to slide danger and heavy snow. It will remain closed overnight, with an update expected at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Heavy snow and high winds forced officials to close dozens of state roads in eastern Oregon on Monday, and Interstate 84 was shut down through the Columbia River Gorge.

Umatilla County, in northeastern Oregon, saw wind gusts of 60 mph, snow drifts along roadways that were several feet tall and white-out conditions that prevented the Oregon Department of Transportation from operating its snow plows, the agency said.

I-84 was also closed east of Pendleton, and U.S. 26 was also closed due to heavy snow, ice and high winds near Rhododendron.

People who ignore road closures could become stranded for several days and there were reports of multiple weather-related crashes and stranded vehicles, ODOT said. Images from ODOT's roadside cameras showed cars abandoned and buried in snow.

About eight inches (20 cm) of snow fell in the Columbia River Gorge between 2 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Monday, followed by an ice storm, the National Weather Service said. As a result, I-84 was closed between Troutdale and Highway 64 near Hood River because of white-out conditions and multiple crashes. That portion of the road reopened later Monday but I-84 closed again east of Pendleton because of hazardous conditions.

Pacific Power said it had restored service to more than 47,000 Oregon customers from Sunday to Monday afternoon and that as of about 5 p.m., that most of the remaining 7,600 customers should have their power restored by midnight.

In Portland, the precipitation fell as heavy rain that caused flooding that closed some city intersections and overflowed Portland’s combined sewer system early Monday, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

Officials also warned people to stay away from areas recently burned by wildfires because the heavy rain could cause mudslides.

Rain and snow in even some low-lying areas continued Monday. The National Weather Service said multiple rounds of heavy snow were forecast across the Northwest through midweek, with heavy rain and flooding possible along coastal regions of Oregon and Washington.

KNKX staff contributed to this report.

Semi trucks sit idle on a snow-covered highway.
AP
/
Oregon Department of Transportation
In this photo provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation, trucks are parked in the snow along Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge about 60 miles east of Portland, Ore., Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Heavy snow and high winds forced officials to close dozens of state roads in eastern Oregon on Monday and Interstate 84 was shut down through the Columbia River Gorge, while blowing snow also closed a major road over the Cascade Mountains in Washington.

Updated: January 3, 2022 at 6:29 PM PST
Includes quote from WSDOT and forecast information; adds Oregon power outage details
Updated: January 3, 2022 at 5:35 PM PST
5:30 p.m.: Information added about reopening plans for Snoqualmie and White passes. More details about Oregon highways added.