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Freezing rains, slick roads cause problems across state.

Byline: From Register-Guard and news service reports

A winter storm struck Oregon this weekend, coating roads with snow and ice and reducing traffic to a crawl in many parts of the state. Downtown Portland got its first covering of snow, sending pedestrians to the seat of their pants and drivers skidding in different directions.

Multiple accidents were reported from northeastern to southwestern Oregon, including at least three that resulted in fatalities, authorities said.

The storm forced the state to close about 50 miles of southbound Interstate 5 between Cottage Grove and the Roseburg area early Sunday.

Road crews de-iced the northbound lanes in the morning and made the southbound lanes drivable within an hour after the closure was ordered, Pam Frank, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, said in a statement early Sunday afternoon.

Oregon State Police Sgt. Alan Hageman said troopers cleared as many as 10 multi-vehicle crashes on I-5 in Southern Oregon between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday. A few hours later, he said 18 crashes in the Roseburg area alone had not yet been assigned to troopers.

While the storm headed north, a winter storm warning was expected to remain in effect until 10 a.m. today in Lane County's Cascade range and foothills, including around Cottage Grove as well as in Vida, Lowell, McKenzie Bridge and Oakridge.

Freezing rain, sleet and snow were expected to continue today in those areas, as well as further north in the central Willamette Valley, according to the National Weather Service in Portland.

Slick roads Sunday afternoon led to several crashes in the Salem area. Transportation officials were urging people not to drive unless necessary.

``We ask that motorists still exercise extreme caution throughout the area. Temperatures are still below freezing. It's not business as usual if you are traveling today,'' Lee Sparks, the department's assistant district manager, said in a statement.

Chains were required on Interstate 84 along the Columbia River Gorge late Sunday, with motorists facing blizzard conditions in some spots.

The storm left 9,500 Portland General Electric customers without power for at least part of the day. The utility said wind caused all the outages, which were widely scattered across the Portland, Mount Hood and western Columbia Gorge areas.

Freezing rain was expected late Sunday in Portland. TriMet spokesman Bruce Solberg said MAX trains would run all night long to keep ice from forming on overhead lines.

Traffic was bumper-to-bumper on metro highways Sunday evening as motorists dealt with ice and poor visibility.

``You'd think this was a weekday commute home,'' said state transportation department spokesman Dave Thompson.

Steve Johnson, spokesman for the Port of Portland, said there were roughly 20 flight cancellations at Portland International Airport on Sunday, but most planes were taking off.

Tanya Bogart, 30, of Coos Bay died in a two-vehicle crash on Highway 138 near Elkton, and 16-year-old Natasha Ries died in a single-car crash on Highway 38 about 28 miles east of Reedsport.

On Saturday, Grover Pellham, 78, of Longview, Wash., died when his vehicle slipped off Interstate 84 near the Eastern Oregon city of Arlington.


A lone driver (right) tends to his stuck car as traffic backs up in Portland. An icy storm forced the state to close roads in various parts of Oregon on Sunday.
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Title Annotation:Accidents; Numerous crashes are reported, and a stretch of I-5 south of Cottage Grove is closed for de-icing
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 19, 2005
Previous Article:Separate accidents on icy bridges leave two dead.
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