The Oregon Department of Transportation is warning travelers on Interstate 84 through the Gorge to be ready for a wintery mix of weather over the next week and have supplies with them in case of major delays. ODOT crews have been treating I-84 with deicer and salt both before and after a series of crashes on the icy, snow-packed road that closed the westbound lanes between Hood River and Cascade Locks from Tuesday night until Wednesday afternoon. The crashes delayed the arrival of the equipment that could clear the road, leading to a buildup of ice and snow. ODOT says with more severe weather expected in the days ahead, travelers should avoid I-84 in the Gorge. If you go, check tripcheck.com or call 5-1-1 for the latest road and weather conditions, give yourself extra time, slow down, and drive for conditions, carry chains and know how to use them, and carry supplies like blankets, food, water, and medications. Commercial vehicles are required to carry chains in snow zones under Oregon law and to put them in use when weather conditions require them for travel. Extra tire chain enforcement is in effect around the state.
Hood River County Public Works Director Mikal Diwan says they are clearing roads on a priority basis, and asking people to be aware that many local roads may not get plowed for up to 1-2 days depending on the intensity of the storm. Sand is being applied in severe cases but not upon request. He adds county crews do not shovel driveways, regardless if they are filled by a county plow truck, and they apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Diwan also says that until road conditions return to normal it’s recommended people do not travel unless absolutely necessary. If you do travel, please carry traction chains in your vehicle.
The Oregon Department of Transportation announced this evening that westbound Interstate 84 between Hood River and Cascade Locks has reopened, but westbound traffic will move slowly for several hours as trucks that have been holding make their way. ODOT suggests avoiding driving in the Gorge if at all possible. Extreme caution is advised tonight and into the morning, as freezing rain may cause icy conditions. You are required to carry chains and know how to use them. Visit www.TripCheck.com or call 5-1-1 for the latest.
The freeway was closed early Wednesday morning, with numerous vehicles stranded for hours behind several wrecks, many involving semi-trucks. ODOT officials indicated at 1;30 p.m. that vehicles that had been stranded had been cleared, but crews plowed, sanded, and salted the roadway to break up and remove the snow and ice before reopening the road But one of the issues ODOT faces is when the Gorge experiences snow, freezing rain, ice, and quickly falling and rising temperatures it can wash away salt and deicer faster than they can lay it down. Coupled with vehicles traveling without traction devices crashing and blocking all lanes of traffic, it becomes difficult to keep the freeway open. ODOT officials advise people who travel during the winter to carry blankets or some kind of warming device, food, and something to keep kids occupied, and to make sure to have a full tank of gas before heading out. They also say the Oregon State Police will be stepping up tire chain enforcement. Motorists are also urged to use tripcheck.com to get the latest on road conditions in Oregon.
Mt. Hood National Forest officials say they will develop options for retrieving a plane that crashed into Mt. Hood near Elliot Glacier in the spring. In a written statement, forest officials say risks to personnel outweigh the benefits for recovery of the aircraft during winter weather. The downed plane is on extremely steep and snow-covered terrain in the Mt. Hood Wilderness, which complicates any removal operation. The Forest, which has been working with the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office in the aftermath of the crash, plans to form a team in the spring to assess the situation and develop options to retrieve the aircraft.
Oregon highway managers are expecting troublesome driving conditions to remain across northern state highways for the next 3 to 4 days. Interstate 84 through the Columbia Gorge remains a primary focus of snow and ice removal efforts with the additional concern about heavy rainfall in the western Gorge. Various locations along the highway are experiencing heavy winds as well. Weather conditions across the northern tier of highways remain unstable with temperatures hovering at just above or just below freezing. Motorists can expect to find a patchwork of conditions due to varying temperatures within short proximity, with associated snow, ice and possibly freezing rain found adjacent to nearly bare highway surfaces. East of the gorge expect heavy snow in mountain passes and high winds in some areas. Motorists should be prepared to install chains when required and plan extra travel time. ODOT snow removal teams are on a 24-7 work status with extra crews being deployed to Interstate 84 as necessary. Heavy trucks are not permitted to use Washington Highway 14 when weather conditions close Interstate 84 in Oregon.
The Dalles Public Works Department wants to make the most of a break in recent winter weather to clear snow and ice from downtown area streets. Crews will clear 2nd Street, 3rd Street, and 4th Street from Pentland Street to the roundabout at Brewery Grade, along with intersecting side streets and the bottom of Brewery Grade as time allows. Crews will begin concentrating efforts this evening at 9 p.m. and work is expected to be complete by tomorrow at 6 a.m. Business owners in the downtown area only are requested to shovel snow from sidewalks into the street by 9 p.m. this evening because there is no private property available for snow piles. Remove all vehicles from 2nd Street, 3rd Street, and 4th Street from Pentland to the roundabout by 9 p.m. so that snow and ice can be removed curb to curb. You may park vehicles on adjacent side streets.
Wasco County has received its first clean financial audit in some time. County Commissioner Scott Hege says some issues in the Treasurer’s office a number of years ago led to reconciliation issues. Hege noted most of the things they were dealt with were along the lines of timeliness rather than financial problems, and county staff had worked hard to address them. Hege adds things that happen in the finances are carried with you for quite awhile.
Washington 14th District State Representative Chris Corry has introduced a bill attempting to help reform the foster system in the state that doesn’t do more harm to the children under that care. Corry, who is a foster parent, says the goal is to focus on what’s best for the kids. The bill address the relative searches the Department of Children, Youth, and Family does that Corry believes are taking longer than they should. The bill is currently in committee.
A truck accident on Interstate 84 between Cascade Locks and Hood River this morning led to approximately 2,500 gallons of diesel being leaked onto the highway. According to the Oregon State Police, a preliminary investigation shows a Space Age semi-tractor pulling two tanker trucks was eastbound on I-84 near milepost 54. The OSP says the driver, 34-year-old James Altman of Portland, was driving too fast for the snowy conditions on the roadway at about 10:30 Monday morning. Altman lost control of the commercial motor vehicle and the tankers flipped onto their sides. When the tankers flipped they started leaking onto the diesel onto the highway. The diesel eventually seeped underneath the barrier onto the westbound lanes of travel. Two tanks completely spilled their diesel. Space Age has contracted a company to clean-up the spill and tows are on scene. The Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Emergency Response System were notified and were going to the scene to assist.
Hood River County Commissioners have scheduled a public information meeting on Thursday, February 21 to discuss the County’s plans to put a pair of tax measures. The Commission is planning to place both a five percent prepared food and beverage tax and five-year property tax levy at 89 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value. County Administrator Jeff Hecksel says they will use the same drop-in format they used for a pair of meetings earlier in the process. The meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on February 21 at the Hood River Valley High School commons.