Icy blast = dicey conditions
Wintry blast, slippery slopes once again affect schools, businesses, hospitals.
A snow and ice storm forecast a week ago came to fruition during the weekend, leading to treacherous roads and sidewalks and canceling many events, and closing some businesses, schools and public places through Monday, Jan. 9.
Despite the light snowfall that turned into a torrent of freezing rain on Saturday and Sunday, things went smoothly for city of Gresham crews. In advance of the inclement weather, deicer was applied on most of the priority roads, weather equipment was readied and warming centers with an extensive volunteer network was established.
The emergency center was also opened on a limited status, which helps centralize and coordinate efforts made by the city.
Gresham crews worked long shifts over the weekend, focusing on the main arterial roads and working outward. Few issues were reported to the city, officials said, and only two downed trees were called in on Saturday.
"In the warming centers we never reached 100 percent capacity, so we were able to accommodate everyone who needed shelter," said Elizabeth Coffey, the city's communications director.
Even if the shelters had been full, no one would have been turned away. Per regional policy, during times of severe weather any individual who attempts to find shelter at a location filled to capacity will be offered transportation to another building.
Work crews Monday were removing the slush from the roads as the snow and ice continued to melt. The city warned people who decided to venture out that many sidewalks and side roads were still icy and in places can be difficult to navigate.
Weather-related injuries swamped local emergency rooms. The Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center emergency department saw 288 patients from midnight Saturday Jan. 7, to Monday morning Jan. 9. About 75, or 26 percent, of these patients were weather-related injuries such as people falling down on icy roads and sidewalks.
"The emergency department is busy with patients," Julie Reed, the public relations executive for the hospital, said Monday. "There is also heavy ambulance traffic today and the county emergency response system is swamped with EMS calls."
Homeowners should also watch for bursting pipes, which will begin to occur as the temperature rises.
Weather shuttered East Multnomah County schools. Centennial, Corbett, Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds school districts, Damascus Christian School and Multisensory Learning Academy were all closed Monday. The Multnomah Education Service District was also closed.
Mt. Hood Community College delayed the start of the winter term one day by closing campus Jan. 9. That closure included the Gresham campus, Bruning Center and Maywood Park Center.
Tri-Met reported delays on MAX trains Monday morning because of icy conditions, especially on the east side and a car blocking the tracks on the Steel Bridge. TriMet advised using bus service but warned that some buses were detoured or canceled because of continued poor road conditions in some areas. It advised planning extra travel time as some buses have chains on their tires and are running slower.
The city of Troutdale, including the municipal court, was closed Monday. City facilities of Wood Village and Fairview opened late.
Randy Lauer, a public works employee in Wood Village, said he had distributed gravel on Northeast 238th Drive, Arata Road, Wood Village Boulevard, Halsey Street, 244th Avenue and near City Hall.
"(I) went out for about two hours yesterday afternoon and spread gravel on the major arterials," he said. "The county and ODOT had a pretty good handle on things though."
In nearby Portland, city employees experimented with salt treatments to de-ice frozen roads. Crews spread salt from Vista Tunnel along Highway 26 to Sylvan Hill near Beaverton.
"We may consider salt use in the future. Right now, we're looking at supply issues. We don't really have any storage facility in the area, and as you can imagine right now it's in high demand around the region," said Don Hamilton with the Oregon Department of Transportation, reported KOIN-6 News, a news partner of The Outlook and Pamplin Media Group. "We're hoping to get a good thaw in by the morning commute. If not, we will be out there with plows, sanders and all the tools we can (use) to try and have a good impact on the commute and make it as safe as possible."
Many state, Metro and county offices and courts also closed or delayed openings because of hazardous roads and sidewalks.
Some of the animals at the Oregon Zoo no doubt loved the arctic-like weather, but the zoo was closed all weekend, so the public wasn't able to share the experience.