The Oregon Department of Transportation closed Interstate 84 in both directions between Troutdale and Hood River due to icy conditions just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Rain and freezing rain rolled into the Portland metro area early Tuesday afternoon. Roads in and around the city grew slick with new precipitation on top of melting snow left over from last week's storm.
The National Weather Service in Portland issued an ice storm warning for the greater Portland metro area, the Columbia River Gorge, the Hood River and Wind River valleys as well as most valleys within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest early Tuesday. The warning called for freezing rain Tuesday and Wednesday for most areas below 1,500 feet east of the Coast Range.
The pending winter weather prompted Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts to cancel school Tuesday. In the Gorge, the list of school closings included Hood River County, White Salmon and Stevenson-Carson school districts, among others. The Vancouver School District is on a 2-hour delay.
The Oregon Department of Transportation has been running crews around the clock since the snowstorm that blanketed much of the state last week. ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton said they didn't slow down efforts ahead of Tuesday's expected freezing rain.
"We’ve had our crews out all night getting ready for this. We’ve been trying to put some de-icer on the roads. And the next tool we’re going to have after we’ve got ice actually hitting is going to be put sand on the roads, which will improve traction.
"The most effective piece that can happen is people need to stay off the roads," he said.
As of now ODOT has not closed any major highways or issued chain requirements, but Hamilton said both are options as they continue to monitor the weather Tuesday. Interstate 84 through the Columbia Gorge is one road they're paying special attention to. The NWS is calling for up to 1.5 inches of ice accumulation in the Gorge Tuesday.
"We will close that if that seems to be unsafe out there, and that will stay closed until we’re convinced that the road is safe again to reopen. Conditions are calling for that stay icy and to stay frozen probably through Wednesday," Hamilton added.
Portland area transit has reduced service Tuesday morning in anticipation of the bad weather. TriMet has adjusted its MAX Blue, Green and Red lines and the Orange and Yellow lines won’t run as frequently as usual.
More than 20 bus lines are canceled Tuesday morning as well, with others are running on snow routes. All buses have chains on to begin the day. Public transit riders could see long delays. Portland area TriMet riders can check trimet.org/alerts for updates on service.
The NWS says occasional light freezing rain is expected to begin Tuesday morning before picking up again in the afternoon. The freezing rain isn't the only problem, however, as much of the region has failed to thaw out since a major snowstorm blew through nearly a week ago. Rain on top of the thawing could lead to flooding for many areas in the coming days.
"We could definitely see some river flooding Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. But the biggest threat will be the small stream and urban flooding due to the melting snow and ice," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Will Ahue.
The Register-Guard reports that the southern Willamette Valley could see as much as 1.5 inches of rain between Tuesday and Friday as the weather system moves in from the south. Though the NWS said early Tuesday that Eugene and the southern Willamette Valley will likely miss out on freezing rain as temperatures climbed above freezing before sunrise Tuesday.
Temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees for the greater Willamette Valley on Tuesday and 50 degrees on Wednesday.
High winds are forecast along the coast with gusts upwards of 60 mph on the headlands and in coastal communities.