Abandoned vehicles abound after rare snow storm in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Abandoned vehicles littered streets in the Portland area Thursday, a day after a rare snow storm brought Oregon’s largest city to a halt.

The National Weather Service said commuters should be prepared for snow-covered streets and possibly more snow, but no real accumulation.

“We might get to barely above freezing, but it would only be for an hour or two,” meteorologist Colby Neuman said. “The snow that we have in Portland is going to stick around for the next couple of days.”

Only 1-to-3 inches of snow fell around Portland on Wednesday, but ice and the rush-hour timing created havoc.

Thursday morning, Kevin Baker stood guard while his twin children, Grady and Bella, 10, took turns sledding down the middle of their suburban street with their new puppy, Bruno.

The kids had no competition from traffic — streets were abandoned and covered in snow over a layer of thick ice that cracked underfoot.

It took Baker eight hours to drive home Wednesday night from Seattle. He said when he hit Vancouver, Washington, just north of the Portland metropolitan area, he realized it would get bad. He didn’t get home until midnight.

The Portland area does not use rock salt, for environmental reasons, and because snow is rare here. Baker is among those who would like to see transportation officials be more aggressive about keeping roads clear of snow and ice.

“Right now they use gravel but they have to do something more than what they were doing last night, because it was unbearable,” he said.

Many people stayed home on Thursday. Traffic was again moving freely, although gingerly in some locations because of the thin blanket of snow.

It was a different scene Wednesday afternoon and evening, when many commuters found themselves on streets clogged with traffic. Cars fish-tailed, spun out and collided. Semi-trucks littered Interstate 5, some of them unable to move to the side before getting stuck.

Some motorists abandoned their vehicles and started walking.

“One of the problems that we see is everybody decides when a storm starts to leave for home at the same time,” Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Don Hamilton said on Thursday. “That creates the kind of gridlock we saw last night and this morning.”

Portland city officials on Wednesday night declared parking meter amnesty, allowing drivers to leave their cars parked overnight without penalties.

Some buses from Portland Public Schools were trapped Wednesday on the roads and an unspecified number of buses had been involved in crashes, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Interim chief operating officer Courtney Wilton said he had not heard of any injuries in those accidents.

School districts across the region canceled classes Thursday.

The National Weather Service said a major ice storm hit in Eugene, Oregon. The Register-Guard reported that several thousand Lane County residents lost power, and crews were working furiously to restore it.

In California, one of the strongest rainstorms of the season was expected to hit the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday. The storm could soak the region with as much as 2 inches and bring high tides and strong wind gusts that could snarl commutes.

Winds could hit 50 miles an hour in some parts of the Bay Area.


Associated Press writers Andrew Selsky and Steven DuBois contributed to this report.