December 25, 2008 in City

Portland greets rain with relief after big snarl

Officials ease transportation restrictions
Associated Press
 

PORTLAND – Portlanders are finally getting winter weather they’re familiar with: rain, then a chance of rain, followed by rain.

A snowstorm moved over northern Oregon on Christmas Eve morning, giving a finishing coat to a weekend storm that went into the record books – worst in 28 years in the state’s largest city.

Then rain began to fall. Forecasters expected the storm to tail off Wednesday night with perhaps some freezing rain.

“Then Friday we have a warm system that comes in,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Dalton. “Late morning into the afternoon hours there will be rain spreading into the area, and that’s the end of the snow.”

Rising temperatures, with overnight lows above freezing, and rain into next week are expected to melt and wash away much of the foot or more of snow that fell at the northern end of the Willamette Valley the preceding weekend.

The National Weather Service said it was the heaviest snowfall in Portland since 1980, and the biggest December storm in 40 years.

The snowfall was widespread in Oregon but most intense across the northern part and, as is often the case, the Columbia Gorge.

As the snow ended on Wednesday, transportation officials eased up on restrictions, advising motorists to carry chains in their cars but not requiring them in the Portland metro area and in Washington County to the west.

Attention turned to roofs, which have been carrying heavy loads of snow for days. There were scattered reports of carports collapsing and concern over larger buildings.

The Oregon State Police said it had closed its Portland command center so its roof and sagging ceiling tiles could be inspected. It said the closure wouldn’t hamper troopers.

In McMinnville, the News-Register reported that a medical center housing doctors, clinics and other medical facilities closed for a time on Tuesday after the roof of the former outlet mall flexed, but a structural engineer judged it to be safe.

The state’s largest utility, PGE, said it has been restoring power where trees and branches laden with snow and ice toppled onto power lines. The utility said it has turned the juice back on for 265,000 customers since the storm began Friday, including 90,000 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, PGE said 47,000 were without power, some since Sunday.

“Road conditions – especially in hilly, remote and heavily treed areas – are making restoration work very challenging,” a company statement said, and restoration efforts may last through today and into the weekend.

Another Oregon utility, Pacific Power, said it had reduced outages to below 1,000, but most of those were scattered or difficult to get to.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said driving remained hazardous in the Coast Range, the Cascade Range and the Willamette Valley. It reported a few closures, such as one on Oregon 214 six miles south of Silverton with phone lines across the road.

Portland International Airport said most flights were going out, and Amtrak said trains were running, but behind schedule. Greyhound said it was running buses north and south.

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