A tangle of vehicle crashes Wednesday night on Mount Hood signaled the onset of volatile winter road conditions.
Blockages created a 15-17 mile closure on U.S. Highway 26 from Highway 35 to 216 (west of Warm Springs). Icy conditions at high elevations on mountain passes led to most of the crashes, according to Oregon Department of Transportation.
“Some people got a little bit surprised (by the conditions) … as a consequence we had some problems,” said Peter Murphy, ODOT spokesman for central Oregon.
Despite numerous crashes, no serious injuries were reported.
“Injuries were kept to a minimum,” Murphy said.
Travel alerts logged well over a dozen crashes. One ODOT weather notice at 8:43 p.m. noted a 15-car pileup near U.S. 26 milepost 67.
Crews with ODOT assisted law enforcement officers and worked to untangle the mess with tow trucks, an endeavor that took hours. Closures ran from about 9 p.m. to midnight.
Rainy conditions will persist in the Columbia Gorge and Mount Hood travel corridors through the week, though temperatures are expected to warm up slightly.
Temperatures have fluctuated to freezing levels on some areas of highway at nighttime.
A severe weather hazard is in place Thursday morning at Bennett Pass on Highway 35 near Mt. Hood Meadows in southern Hood River County. ODOT’s interactive map lists “snow flurries” and “spots of ice” on the stretch of highway. Carrying chains and traction tires is recommended.
In the Parkdale area, snow flurries and spots of ice have been intermittently reported, between Highway 35 mileposts 68 and 83.
ODOT is spreading the word that motorists should brace for winter driving challenges, which have arrived slightly earlier than usual.
Murphy said travelers should use snow tires, drive slowly, and keep trips to daytime if possible. Steps in preparation should also account for being stuck behind a que of wrecks — such as bringing warm clothes, a blanket and warm beverage.
“You’ve got to have your winter brain engaged,” Murphy said. “It’s here, it’s with us.”
Drivers can monitor travel updates and road cameras at www.tripcheck.com.
Highway 35 crash
Closer to Hood River, on Tuesday evening, a four-vehicle crash closed Highway 35 for almost three hours.
Oregon State Police Lt. Les Kipper said two drivers involved were transported to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital with serious injuries.
Police responded to the accident at around 5:40 p.m., according to a police log.
On a sharp curve near milepost 102, two vehicles collided head on. Shortly after, a third driver stopped because of the crash and was hit from behind by a fourth vehicle. One driver was cited by police.
The highway was closed shortly after 6 p.m. and reopened at about 9:50 p.m., according to Don Hamilton, ODOT spokesman.
The crash is under an OSP investigation.