Car Veers Off Portland Bridge Into River as Dive Teams Search For Victims

Rescue teams are searching for those inside an SUV that veered off the Interstate 205 bridge and plunged into the Columbia River in Portland on Sunday evening.

The car likely slid off the road due to the snowy and icy conditions, Portland Fire & Rescue said.

Authorities said the vehicle was heading south on the span of Interstate 205 that connects Oregon and Washington before it careened into the river around 6 p.m.

Multnomah County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sergeant Brandon Pedro said the marine unit was dispatched to the bridge's midspan, according to Oregon Live.

Divers with the county and the U.S. Coast Guard will begin their search for the SUV on Monday morning, KATU reports.

It is not known how many people were in the vehicle at the time.

Here’s some of the damage our crews have been dealing with on OR 18 in the Van Duzer Corridor. Conditions are like this for about 12 miles. #orwx pic.twitter.com/e1TeWCWRki

— OregonDOT (@OregonDOT) February 13, 2021

The Sheriff's Office advised travelers to only drive if absolutely necessary and to make sure tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread, or use chains or winter tires.

"Deputies are responding to numerous crashes and spin outs," the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office said on Friday. "Road conditions are rapidly deteriorating across the county."

The Oregon Department of Transportation also warned against drivers taking to the roads.

"Driving conditions remain treacherous for throughout much of NW Oregon this morning. Downed trees, powerlines and ice have closed many roads. Avoid travel if possible," the service tweeted on Saturday. "Expect delays, extended road closures, & plan for alt routes. Be ready for rapidly changing conditions."

Newsweek has contacted the Multnomah County Sheriff's River Patrol and Portland Fire & Rescue for comment.

Ramps onto I-84 from NE Fairview Pkwy and NE 238th Dr are blocked by several stuck vehicles. Heavy snow and sleet continue to fall in east county. pic.twitter.com/rIGfcAfHgU

— Multnomah Co. Sheriff’s Office (@MultCoSO) February 13, 2021

Much of the U.S. has been experiencing extreme weather for days, after a "polar vortex" caused snow, ice, freezing rain and temperatures to plummet far below freezing.

Arctic high pressure pushing south from Canada resulted in "frigid temperatures" to the U.S. midsection, in some cases more than 40 degrees below average temperatures, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

The winter storm spell moved into the region causing "widespread snowfall" in both Portland and Seattle, bringing rounds of freezing rain and ice build up and prompting weather warnings across multiple states.

The prediction center said that freezing winter storms would cause widespread snowfall in Washington and Oregon through the weekend, with bitter Arctic air pushing across the central U.S. and continuing to expand further south.

It said: "A very cold and active weather pattern is set to continue across the country to end the first full week of February, with a plethora of winter weather hazards."

The center said a continuing ice storm will impact regions from central Texas to the Ohio Valley, noting the "amount of ice will likely lead to hazardous travel conditions, power outages, and scattered tree damage" around the region.

A Pacific storm led to heavy snow and ice in the Pacific Northwest, from Portland to Seattle with hazardous travel conditions set to remain in place over the week.

The polar vortex is a huge area of low pressure and cold air that typically resides surrounding both of the Earth's poles. This year, however, the vortex has weakened, allowing the freezing northern air to head south, leading to the frigid weather.

Columbia River
File photo: A sign warns travelers the area is closed at the Columbia River Highway in Portland, Oregon. Rescue teams are searching for those inside an SUV that veered off the Interstate 205 bridge and plunged into the Columbia River in Portland on Sunday evening. Steve Dyke/Getty