Snow returns to Northwest for 3rd consecutive day

Snow returns to Northwest for 3rd consecutive day
Courtesy of Julee Ward.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The last installment in a trilogy of powerful Northwest storms has caused scattered power outages, and there are expectations of more to come late Saturday as snow turns to rain and ice for a wide swath of Oregon.

The National Weather Service said the Portland area should expect another 4 to 8 inches of snow through Saturday night and the Columbia River Gorge might get more. Meanwhile, freezing rain was expected in the wine country southwest of Portland to the lower Willamette Valley south of Eugene, triggering an ice-storm warning for a stretch of more than 100 miles.

"Snow is bad. But ice is worse," said Miles Higa, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

More than 3,000 people in the Portland region were without power Saturday morning, but most had the lights back before noon. Farther south, The Register-Guard newspaper reported that downed trees have caused widespread outages in the rural communities near Eugene. The Springfield Utility Board, meanwhile, said 2,000 customers were without power, primarily in downtown and east Springfield.

The snow began swirling in Portland shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday, falling on top of streets and sidewalks packed with snow from storms that struck Thursday and Friday. Despite its northern location on the U.S. map, Portland sometimes goes an entire winter without snow, and residents and businesses are not prepared to shovel their sidewalks.

Portland is likely to get freezing rain early Sunday, the weather service said.

"The (Monday) morning commute could be a little sketchy," Higa said.

The Oregon State Police said troopers statewide have responded to about 600 weather-related crashes since Thursday morning. The only fatality occurred Friday afternoon, when ice caused a man to lose to control of his vehicle on Interstate 84 near Rooster Rock and crash into a tree, killing a female passenger.

Troopers have also responded to about 900 motorists who needed assistance because of the conditions, Lt. Steve Mitchell said.

Police and public officials have urged people not to drive, and that message was heeded by most as many streets were empty Saturday.

Residents also had fewer reasons to leave home as the Oregon Zoo, Portland Art Museum, Multnomah County Library and many shops were closed.

For bicyclists, the weather even doomed the annual "Worst Day of the Year Ride" scheduled for this weekend. Organizers had hoped to stage a 15-mile ride through downtown after announcing Thursday that its more challenging 46-mile event through the hills of west Portland was canceled for safety reasons.

"Alas, Mother Nature wins this round," organizers announced on the event's website Saturday.