Schools close or delay opening as March snow returns - again

Schools close or delay opening as March snow returns - again »Play Video
Snow blankets Normandale Park in Northeast Portland. (Photo by Bill Roberson)

PORTLAND, Ore. - After a windy day that knocked out power to thousands, snow moved into the region late Monday night and blanketed Oregon's beaches with several inches of the white stuff.

Across the region, schools closed or delayed opening Tuesday morning as yet another round of March snowfall coated the Northwest overnight. Late winter storms on March 1 and March 5 also dusted some low-lying areas with a trace or more of snow.

Lincoln County along the coast was hit hard overnight by the snow, which sent cars into ditches and brought down power lines. A check of power utility websites revealed only scattered outages to less than 200 customers around the region early Tuesday following the widespread outages on Monday.

Snow also fell in Portland into the morning Tuesday as the temperature dropped to 35 degrees at 6 a.m. Wet snow continued to fall in many areas around Portland as the morning went on but for the most part, major roads remained clear while side streets saw some light accumulation or were just slushy.

KATU Meteorologist Joe English said snow could continue to fall in showers at lower elevations Tuesday morning but will likely turn to rain after 9 a.m. as temperatures rise. Later in the day, the region could even dry out but unsettled conditions might bring thunderstorms to the coast and inland valleys, English said.

Locations above 1,500 feet will likely continue to get snow in showers and mountain passes could see 10 inches of snow, English added. Coast Range passes could also see more snow Tuesday.

ODOT and City of Portland road crews were on task overnight keeping roads clear of snow and few delays or problems were reported Tuesday morning. TriMet officials said 10 to 15 buses serving upper elevation routes were chained up.

Early in the evening Monday, snow began to fall on the beach in Seaside and by 11 p.m., two inches had accumulated on the sand. It was still snowing in Lincoln City at 11 p.m., accumulating 1.5 inches. The big winner, however, was Tillamook where four inches of the white stuff had accumulated. Newport had nearly as much snow, as well.

Around the Portland area, lower elevations also had snow on the ground Tuesday morning while upper elevations had 1 to 2 inches. Most major roadways remained only wet while some side streets had slushy conditions. However, coastal roadways were "a mess" according to KATU Traffic reporter Michael Convery.

Low pressure off the Oregon coast moved inland overnight, lowering temperatures and bringing snow to the region. On Tuesday, English said unsettled conditions could bring thunderstorms into the region during the day while snow tails off most places. An avalanche warning is in effect until 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Cascades.

KATU Meteorologist Dave Salesky said Monday’s storm was the strongest since late last fall.

Winds were clocked at about 90 mph on the coast on Monday and up to 55 mph in the Willamette Valley, Salesky said. Winds tapered off into the evening hours Monday.

The winds knocked out power to more than 17,000 PGE customers at one point Monday, with thousands still without power into the early evening. By late evening, crews were still working to restore power to about 800 customers. Only a handful of customers were in the dark Tuesday morning.

At higher elevations above 1,500 feet on Monday, falling snow created slick conditions in mountain passes, including in the Coast Range. More snow fell there overnight and combined with downed trees, closed some roads, including sections of Highway 101 and Highway 20 along the coast, according to ODOT.

Oregon State Police said a trooper was involved in a crash Monday on Highway 26 near Elsie. The trooper was unable to avoid hitting a 1997 Mercedes sedan that was sliding in "heavy snow road conditions." One person in the Mercedes had a minor injury, OSP said.

Another driver escaped injury on Highway 26 when his van slid off a snow-covered road and down an embankment. Photos of the two crashes

“I was slowing down to help another guy that I saw stuck on the side of the road and I lost control,” said Will Diehl. “It didn’t matter if I turned left, right, gas, break – it went that way and then it went down (over the embankment).”

In Salem, a large tree fell on several cars parked outside Saint Paul's Episcopal Church. It did major damage to two cars. Two other cars got banged up. No one was hurt.

The wind brought down a lot of trees and power lines in Beaverton, including one at Southwest Davies and Sorrento that fell on a power line, even breaking the pole.

In Tigard, a tree fell on top of a house. No one was hurt but neighbors said it caused quite a commotion.

“I heard a big crash,” said Brandon Bruce. “It woke me up from sleeping, and I came out and saw the tree on the roof of the house next door – went over and nobody was home.”

Fire officials said Tigard, Wilsonville and West Linn have seen the most damage.

KATU News reporters Lincoln Graves, Erica Nochlin and producers Bill Roberson and Steve Benham contributed to this report.