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Portland sees more freezing rain Thursday | Live weather updates

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland region was still slowly shaking off a layer of ice on Thursday morning, but updated forecast information prompted the National Weather Service to issue a renewed ice storm warning for the Columbia River Gorge in the afternoon, and there’s an increasing chance that those chillier temperatures could spill back over into the metro area and bring a new round of freezing rain.

Highways and main roads were largely clear through the morning, with temperatures hovering just above freezing and consistent rain helping to turn the built-up ice to slush. Many side roads remained slippery, however, and state and local officials urged travelers to continue staying off the roads in anticipation of a renewed freeze in the afternoon.

RELATED: Portland Public Schools cancels Thursday classes due to icy conditions | Closures list

KGW meteorologist Rod Hill said Thursday morning’s rain could lead to substantial icing if things to refreeze, but things likely won’t be as bad as they were during Tuesday’s ice storm, and some pockets of the metro area will likely be more heavily impacted than others.

Multnomah County health officials reported 166 visits to emergency rooms on Tuesday due to slips and falls, the highest since 2016. The county suggested that pedestrians should wear shoes with traction and heavy coats for cushioning, as well as walking in short steps, flat-footed and slowly, with arms out for balance. 

Road conditions

The Oregon Department of Transportation noted Thursday that the “hoped-for Wednesday thaw never quite materialized,” leaving many roads slick in western Oregon. ODOT crews continue to work 12-hour shifts, the agency said, with about 400 snowplows working to clear roads throughout the state. The agency said it has put down more than 1.7 million pounds of salt since the winter weather began a week ago.

Interstate 84 reopened through the Columbia River Gorge late Wednesday night after being closed for more than 31 hours due to Tuesday’s ice storm, but ODOT warned that it was prepared to close the freeway again on Thursday afternoon if conditions deteriorated. ODOT reported three-hour delays to get through the highway due to the weather.

State Route 14 on the Washington side of the Gorge also temporarily closed twice on Wednesday, then closed again to large trucks on Thursday afternoon after reopening Wednesday evening. Both directions of SR-14 between mileposts 19 through 65 are closed to vehicles that are 10,000 gross vehicle weight (GVW), WSDOT said. Traction tires are also required for all passenger vehicles.

Large sections of I-84 between Pendleton and Ontario were also temporarily shut down Thursday morning due to winter weather.

Highway 26 was also closed near mile post 100 Thursday morning due to jackknifed trucks, but ODOT’s TripCheck map showed it reopened later in the afternoon.

The northbound span of the Interstate Bridge was scheduled to be closed to all traffic Saturday night for maintenance work, but ODOT announced Thursday that the project had been postponed to the storm and the bridge would remain open.

Multnomah County reports that it has closed 18 roads due to downed trees, including Northwest Kaiser Road near 9317 Northwest Kaiser. So far, five have reopened. The road maintenance team estimates 40-50 trees have blocked portions of county roads.  

Public transit

TriMet announced late Thursday morning that it had restored the MAX Blue Line between Hillsboro and the Rose Quarter, with the exception of the Washington Park station. The rest of the MAX system remains shut down, with shuttle buses running in place of the trains.

Most buses were no longer running with heavy-duty chains due to improved road conditions, the agency said, but it cautioned that there could still be delays and slowdowns. Buses at high elevations are still using chains, which limit their top speed to 25 mph. TriMet also said its drivers have also begun to report new freezing rain in areas that were previously cleared, potentially leading to new service challenges in the afternoon.

The Portland Streetcar NS Line was running normally Thursday morning, but A and B Loop service was suspended while crews assessed the condition of the Broadway Bridge and Tilikum Crossing. Loop service began in the early afternoon, but turning back at Southeast Stephens Street because Tilikum Crossing was still out of commission.

C-Tran said bus Routes 2, 6, 41, 47 and 190 were suspended Thursday due to weather conditions, with Routes 19 and 92 on snow routes and Route 48 skipping the Junction Park & Ride. The two Vine lines were back on their normal routes after earlier weather disruption, the agency said, although the downtown Vancouver Turtle Place station remained closed.

Power outages

Portland General Electric reported Thursday morning that it had restored power to 96% of customers who had lost power during the previous week’s winter weather. There were about 5,400 remaining customers without power as of around noon, according to PGE’s outage map, with around 160,000 restored since the peak of the outage.

PGE said it has nearly 1,700 active personnel on work crews or support staff, including many assistance crews from neighboring states. There was a minor amount of new damage to the system Wednesday night, and PGE said stronger winds and renewed freezing rain Thursday could cause new outages or hamper existing recovery efforts.

Pacific Power’s outage map reported just over 9,000 customers still without power across western Oregon as of noon, with the vast majority in the southern Willamette Valley between Albany and Cottage Grove. Clark Public Utilities showed fewer than 200 customers with outages as of noon, nearly all along SR-14 to the east of Washougal.

Fanno Creek sewage pipe failure

The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services warned Thursday that the winter weather had fractured a sewage pipe inside the Fanno Creek Pump Station in Southwest Portland the night before, causing sewage to be released into Fanno Creek. Crews responded to the station at around 9 p.m. and stopped the flow after about 2 hours.

The amount of sewage released is unknown. Anyone venturing outside should avoid contact with the creek downstream of Southwest 86th Avenue for at least 48 hours due to the possibility of increased bacteria in the water, the bureau said. 

The Fanno pump station’s tanks are unique, the bureau said, and similar failures are not anticipated at any of the city’s other pumping stations.

Closures and delays

Many local school districts remained closed on Thursday, including Portland Public Schools. Two districts, Corbett and South Wasco, are the first to announce that school will remain closed on Friday. 

Clackamas County said it will close Oregon City, Clackamas County offices, special district offices, facilities and clinics at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, as well as the Clackamas County Justice Court, the Clackamas County Circuit Court and the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office.

The city of Troutdale said it would keep its offices closed Thursday, after earlier saying it would open at 10 a.m. Vancouver said its offices would be open late at 10 a.m.

Multnomah County Circuit Court was closed on Thursday, with all grand jury proceedings canceled. Most Washington County buildings remained closed Thursday. 

The city of Battle Ground said it would close all of its offices and facilities at 1 p.m. Thursday due to icy road conditions and the threat of more freezing rain.

Most state offices in the Portland metro area are closed, but offices in the Salem metro area opened at 10 a.m.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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