PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A rare and powerful snowstorm hammered parts of the Pacific Northwest on Thursday, dropping more than a foot of snow in parts of western Oregon and southwest Washington.
Part two of the storm was expected to hit Oregon on Friday afternoon, bringing another 6 to 12 inches of snow.
Thursday’s storm left one person dead in a massive Interstate 5 pileup in southwest Washington, caused multiple other wrecks and closed schools and offices.
Many school districts in the region canceled Friday’s classes as well.
The snowstorm also caused a string of multiple car crashes on I-5 near Albany, Ore., essentially closing the highway there for five hours, the Oregon Transportation Department said.
Highway crews in Oregon’s Willamette Valley geared up for a night of snowplowing and sanding, focusing on highways that are most critical for commuters and businesses, Transportation Department spokesman Rick Little said.
The last back-to-back snow event like this in the region hit in December 2008, said meteorologist Colby Neuman in the National Weather Service’s Portland office.
The big I-5 pileup that killed one person and injured others occurred across the Columbia River in Washington state’s Clark County.
At least half a dozen tractor-trailers were involved in the collision on the snow-covered freeway, The Columbian reported.
Washington State Patrol Trooper Steve Schatzel said several people were trapped in the wreckage. One suffered injuries described as critical and two others suffered serious injuries.
Oregon State Police Lt. Steve Mitchell described a 25-vehicle pileup on I-5 near Albany as “pure chaos.”
Traffic backed up for miles. Only minor injuries were reported.
Oregon’s largest city, Portland, recorded 3 ½ inches of snow by Thursday evening. Cars slipped and slid as commuters left work early. Some good-hearted residents helped push vehicles that got stuck.
A school bus slid on ice and collided with a car Thursday afternoon in Aloha, west of Portland, but firefighters said one of the children on the bus was taken to a hospital.
Snowfall totals as of Thursday night included 13 inches in the small town of Vernonia, Ore., northwest of Portland, and 10 inches in St. Helens, north of Portland along the Columbia River. Snow also fell along the Oregon coast; the community of Wheeler got 9 inches.
In the Willamette Valley south of Portland, Corvallis got 9.3 inches and Albany reported 7 ½ inches.
In the Columbia River Gorge that divides Oregon from Washington, snow was accented by 30-40 mph winds that gusted to 60 mph, Neuman said.
In southwest Washington, Ridgefield got 9 inches of snow, Woodland got 7 and Longview got 5.
The storm struck quickly Thursday morning, dumping snow on the Albany region and then spreading north.