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Snow expected Thursday night in Portland metro area

The Pacific Northwest is looking at a cold snap starting Thursday, including the potential for snow.

Forecasters say it’s likely to be raining Thursday morning, but temperatures will gradually decrease, which could mean snow in the evening.

“When you wake up on Friday morning, you could wake up with anywhere from two to six inches of snow, depending on how the highest amounts are distributed throughout the metro area,” said Andy Bryant, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Portland.

Temperatures are expected to remain below freezing until Sunday.

“We do expect on Sunday afternoon the temperatures will get into the mid-30s,” Bryant said. “But until then, we will likely be below freezing. So we will accumulate snow, and it’ll stick around for at least a couple of days.”

The snow isn’t expected to be a soft silent blanket. Wind is in the forecast.

“It’s not a calm snow,” Bryant said. “It’s going to be windy especially in and near the Columbia Gorge.”

The wind chill will make it feel colder, and the weather is expected to be especially bad near the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, where cold air whips in from the east. Interstate 84 could be difficult to negotiate.

Snow levels will start Thursday at about 2,700 feet and fall to 1,500 feet by noon.

“There is potential for a little bit of freezing rain on the far western and southern edges of the Portland metro area. So this will be places like Hillsboro and Woodburn,” Bryant said.

It’s unclear how far south freezing temperatures will go.

“In Salem there could be a mix of rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow,” he said. “They are not likely to have much snow accumulation.”

Further south in Eugene there could be a touch of freezing rain, but most precipitation will fall as rain.

The western side of the Pacific Coast range will get snow, and there should be plenty of snow in the Cascade Range. Temperatures there are already in the lower 20 degrees.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation is preparing, updating snow and ice routes and looking at changing staffing schedules.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said city crews have already been spraying magnesium chloride deicer on streets — focusing on higher elevation areas, bridges and overpasses.

“In dry conditions it’ll last several days and be ready to prevent snow or ice adhering to a roadway,” he said.

Government agencies are asking the public to prepare. That means keeping an eye on the forecast, and understanding the weather can change quickly. It also means getting grocery shopping done beforehand, so people can stay home through Friday and the weekend if necessary.

Rivera said people should also delay travel if possible.

“If you do need to travel during a snow or ice event, and delaying your travel is not an option, your first choice we think should be public transit,” he said.

Those who have to drive are advised to use studded tires or snow chains.

Homeowners are also being asked to keep their sidewalks clear of ice and snow.

“Before we have a storm, think through how you will maintain your sidewalk to be free and clear for neighbors who need to walk or use a mobility device to reach public transit,” Rivera said.

Because of COVID-19, people who use public transit are being asked to remember their face masks. Also, snowplow drivers will not have a second person in their cab, as often happens.

“That means the job of our snowplow operators is really significantly more difficult,” Rivera said. “There’s not a second pair of eyes on the street to help them catch obstacles, like pedestrian islands or curb extensions or speed humps. Also, a second person in the vehicle can help with communications with other staff.”

As a result, Rivera is warning people to give snow plows a wider berth than usual.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a veteran journalist/producer working for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He started as a cub reporter for newspapers in London, England in 1988. Then in 1991 he moved to Oregon and started freelancing. His work has appeared in publications as varied as The Oregonian, the BBC, the Salem Statesman Journal, Willamette Week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, NPR and the Voice of America. Kristian has won awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists and the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. He was embedded with the Oregon National Guard in Iraq in 2004 and now specializes in business, law, health and politics.