More snow above 500 feet - but rain in most places

More snow above 500 feet - but rain in most places

Watch the lastest forecast at the bottom of this story.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Drivers in the Portland-metro area braced for another round of wintry weather Monday night that could lead to a messy Tuesday morning commute.

More winter weather could be on the way in the next 48 hours, according to KATU Meteorologist Rhonda Shelby. "This will be a nasty commute between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. for anyone coming out of the hills," Shelby said Monday.

The city of Portland also warned drivers that conditions could be dangerous in the morning and urged commuters to use public transportation.

In an early evening weather update, KATU Meteorologist Dave Salesky said a mix of rain and snow will fall in the valley tonight, with brief periods of sticking snow as heavier showers move through the area. Snow will stick at 500 feet and above, with about two inches of accumulation in the surrounding hills by Tuesday, he said.

The Columbia River Gorge and northern Oregon Coast could also see significant snowfall from the new weather system, especially overnight into Tuesday as temperatures drop. Salesky said there could be about six inches in the Gorge east of Multnomah Falls and 11 inches of snow in the Cascades.

Temperatures will sink to 34 degrees in the valley but will be colder in the outlying areas and at higher elevations, he said.

Snow could still be a factor for the Portland metro area through the Wednesday morning commute. After that Salesky said temperatures will begin to warm up and snow will turn to rain.

The National Weather Service still has several winter weather watches and warnings in effect for the region. A new winter storm watch for the Portland area and beyond was issued Monday morning. The advisory reads in part:

A reinforcing cold front will move across Washington and northern Oregon tonight and Tuesday, bringing heavy snow to the Cascades and the Columbia River Gorge along with some possible light accumulations down to the valley floor.

A stronger low pressure system will then move in from the southwest Tuesday night and Wednesday, spreading abundant moisture over the very cold air mass that is in place across the region. This will result in more heavy snow for the Cascades and Columbia River Gorge and may bring significant accumulations to the lowlands as well including the Portland and Vancouver metro area.

Details are still very uncertain especially for the lowlands but the potential is there for this to be a significant winter weather event.

Monday marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and with schools out and most government offices closed, the commute was light but drivers were advised to slow down and take it easy, especially on side streets where slick conditions persist.

Road crews were out overnight spraying de-icer on trouble spots including overpasses and bridges, but drivers are cautioned that black ice and frozen surfaces can be found in many areas. As of 6 a.m., there were only a few reported incidents as most drivers put caution first.

Snow showers briefly moved through the West Hills Monday afternoon and most of the roads stayed clear in the Portland metro area.
 

Highway 26 and the Coast Range

The bigger snow story, though, was in the Coast Range.

Many travelers got stuck on Highway 26, including a KATU News crew. They had to be towed out of a ditch.

For J.D. Wright, his livelihood depends on clear roads but his commercial semi truck was stuck for five hours.

"Just trying to drive, make a dollar," he said.

Even after getting help from a heavy-duty tow truck that worked to get Wright's truck unstuck with a cable attached to its front end, it barely budged.

"It got up to the next hill and spun out again – can't climb the next hill," Wright said. "So I'm going to try to get the truck turned around and head back to Warrenton."

He said this is the worst he's seen.

I've been driving a truck for 16 years, and this is the first time I ever spun out. It's slick, very slick."

Dozens pulled their cars over to put chains on to try to avoid the same fate. Some people decided to just turn around and go back.

The accidents that occurred Monday were minor but ODOT is expecting conditions to get worse overnight as the roads refreeze.

For most mountain passes, chains are required, according to ODOT. Those passes include the Highway 26 Sunset Summit, the Wilson Summit pass on Highway 6 in the Coast Range, Santiam Pass and Santiam Junction near Mount Hood and Willamette Pass. Check ODOT cameras statewide

A snow lovers' paradise

Thousands of people made their way to the mountains and the ski resorts Monday.

KATU News reporter Lincoln Graves, who was positioned at Government Camp on the slopes of Mount Hood, said snow tires or chains are needed to get to ski resorts as snow coated Highway 26 and Highway 35 leading up to the mountain.

Snow plows were out Monday morning keeping roads clear but drivers can expect slick conditions and driving on snow and ice. 

Graves also said the new snow, which is light and very powdery, should be a skier's delight. Dave Tragethon with the Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort said they received 16 inches of new snow in the last day with much more on the way.

Tragethon said it was 15 degrees at Meadows Monday morning and the new snow was light and powdery. "It's what the powder-hounds have been waiting for" he said. He advised drivers heading for ski resorts to drive safely and have tire chains at the ready.

The cold weather stretched from the coast to the eastern reaches of the state Monday morning. Due to the holiday, there were few closures reported.

KATU News reporter Erica Nochlin contributed to this report.