El Dorado News-Times
Winter storms shut down much of Portland, paralyze travel
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Winter storms sowed more chaos across the U.S. on Thursday, shutting down much of Portland with almost a foot of snow and paralyzing travel from parts of the Pacific Coast all the way to the northern Plains.
The nearly 11 inches that fell in Portland amounted to the second snowiest day in the city’s history. It took drivers by surprise, stalling traffic during the Wednesday evening rush hour and trapping motorists on freeways for hours. Some spent the night in their vehicles or abandoned them altogether as crews struggled to clear roads.
Other commuters got off spunout buses and walked in groups to safety.
The storms also knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes in multiple states, closed schools and grounded or delayed thousands of flights.
Kim Upham endured a 13-hour ordeal as snow brought to a standstill the traffic on U.S. 26, a mountainous road that connects Portland to the coast.
The highway, already treacherous because of its steep grade, was covered in a sheet of ice, forcing some drivers to abandon their cars in the middle of the road.
“It was so scary to have semitrucks behind you and semitrucks in front of you, and you know you’re on a slope,” she said.
She used a blanket to stay warm and spent the night in her car. To save gas, she turned the vehicle on only intermittently to run the windshield wipers and inch ahead when traffic moved slightly.
“I really don’t want to die on 26,” she added. “I was thinking that quite often to be honest with you.”
Other people reveled in the surprise day off in a place that rarely gets measurable snow.
Joan Jasper snapped on skis and was gliding through a residential neighborhood.
“They always have like ‘snowmageddon’ on the news, and so we kind of ignored it — and 11 inches later here we are!” she said. “This is gorgeous.”
The system even brought snow to usually balmy Southern California. The weather service office in San Diego issued its first-ever blizzard warning, covering the mountains of San Bernardino County from early Friday until Saturday afternoon.
In Wyoming, roads across much of the southern part of the state were impassable, state officials said.
Rescuers tried to reach stranded motorists, but high winds and drifting snow created a “near-impossible situation,” said Sgt. Jeremy Beck of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
In Arizona, several interstates and other highways were closed due to high winds, falling temperatures and blowing snow. The state Department of Transportation advised people not to travel. Forecasters said snow could fall at a rate of 2 to 3 inches per hour.