Hood River is approaching the one-week anniversary of the snowstorm, and still there’s more inclement weather on the horizon.
Temperatures are expected to warm slightly this weekend and rain is in the forecast, with a chance of freezing rain. While this means that little to no snow accumulation is expected, it could mean icier conditions or flooding. As of press time Thursday evening, a winter storm advisory was in effect.
“Sorry, there aren’t more loving and warm road and weather updates to share,” said Emergency Manager Barb Ayers in a Feb. 14 weather update. “But whatever nature brings, we’re in it with you.”
As of press time on Thursday, Feb. 14, little to no snow accumulation was expected Friday and rain was in the daily forecast through Sunday.
Power outages and tree damage are likely due to ice, and strong winds could bring down tree branches.
The county’s Emergency Management Department advised travelers to avoid going through the western Columbia River Gorge on Thursday, particularly I-84 and SR-14, due to weather conditions.
“We’re ready for anything that may come up,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Don Hamilton, adding that extra equipment, salt and deicer are staged and on standby. “That said, the forecast doesn’t look too bad. We’re ready for whatever comes and we’re hopeful that it’ll be nothing too severe.”
Should road conditions get too bad, Hamilton said, ODOT will close the highway between Hood River and Troutdale so that drivers, particularly semi-truck drivers, are stranded in a place that has all the services they need rather than on the highway.
And that’s exactly what happened when ODOT waited a bit too long to close Westbound I-84 Tuesday night: Multiple crashes led to a miles-long gridlock that left many drivers stranded for hours.
“Although our crews monitored weather 24/7, had extensive plans, pre-treated the area with deicer, sand and salt, the Gorge’s unique microclimate and multiple microburst snow and ice storms Tuesday and early Wednesday morning lessened the impact of our efforts,” ODOT stated in a Twitter post during the incident.
ODOT closed the section of highway early Wednesday morning, and Oregon State Police troopers handed out fuel, food and water while ODOT worked to clear all stranded vehicles from the highway. The highway was closed until 7:15 p.m. Wednesday evening, but all of the stranded vehicles were cleared by 3 p.m.
Westbound I-84 was closed between Hood River and Cascade Locks after several semi-trucks crashed early Wednesday morning, and remained closed until 7:15 p.m. Wednesday evening.
“When we don’t close the road, that’s when we have severe problems,” Hamilton said.
Vehicles are required to carry traction tires or chains on I-84 through the Gorge, starting at Cascade Locks, and on Highway 35 through Parkdale, and US Route 26 through Government Camp.
In addition to carrying traction tires or chains, drivers should slow down, keep plenty of distance between themselves and other vehicles, and avoid hard-braking and abrupt steering maneuvers. Officials recommend that folks avoid driving at all if they can afford it.
While ODOT’s work has mostly cleared I-84, continuing snow and ice accumulation still make travel difficult; and road conditions in Hood River and the surrounding areas are a slippery mix of snow, ice and slush.