Frozen Pacific Northwest Has Thaw Ahead But Not Before More Snow Hits Region

Warmer temperatures are likely coming over the weekend for much of the Pacific Northwest that has been hit by freezing temperatures and snow in the last week, but not before more snow is forecast in the states that could continue to cause problems.

Nearly 39 inches of snow were reported in Donner Pass, California, over a 24-hour period of Sunday into Monday, as the region was buffeted by uncharacteristically harsh temperatures from the north over the weekend.

Forecasts predict temperatures back around 40 degrees Fahrenheit by the weekend when warm winds from the Pacific enter the region that covers Seattle and Portland.

However, parts of Washington and Oregon are predicted to see about 3 more inches of snow Thursday, while parts of California received more snow and rain Wednesday, continuing the travel disruptions like road closures and accidents, in addition to flight cancellations that took place over the weekend and early this week.

Between December 23 and 28, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported 915 traffic accidents across the state, hundreds more than the 365 and 237 reported in 2020 and 2019, respectively. Oregon State Police has not reported an official number of deaths as of yet, according to the Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The spike in accidents is likely a combination of the harsh weather and increased travel from last year as many across the country felt more comfortable traveling during the pandemic as vaccination rates continue to rise.

"If you can sit tight for a couple more days, just avoid getting out there, that's going to be the safest thing you can possibly do," David House, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation, told OPB.

Winter Weather, Snow, Cold, Pacific Northwest, California
A trail of footprints leads from the parking lot to the water as freshly-fallen snow blankets Frenchman's Bar Regional Park in Vancouver, Washington, on December 28, 2021. The winter storm dropped between 1 and 2 inches of snow on the city. Amanda Cowan/The Columbian via AP

And in Nevada the governor plans to declare a state of emergency due to snow and storm conditions affecting travel in the Lake Tahoe area of northern Nevada.

Snow and ice have made travel treacherous in some parts, forced closures and travel delays and prompted people to take shelter in emergency warming centers.
State officials in Oregon have declared an emergency. In Multnomah County—home to Portland—about a half dozen weather shelters were open this week. A similar number of shelters were opened in Seattle's King County, which also declared an emergency.

Seattle leaders said city shelters will remain open through the new year.
Winter weather and a return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic have resulted in hundreds of accidents on Oregon roads this holiday season.

David House, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation, told OPB the high number of accidents over the last week is a reminder to travelers to use caution and prepare for slick conditions.

In Nevada, a statement released by Governor Steve Sisolak's office said the emergency declaration will allow state officials to order vehicles traveling on mountain highways to turn around and return to lower elevations until weather conditions subside and the roadways are safe to use.

"This will help prevent motorists from becoming stranded overnight on the roadways, potentially running out of gas in subfreezing temperatures without access to emergency services," the statement said.

It said U.S. 50 and State Routes 207 and 28 were experiencing long delays and dangerous conditions and that authorities need to be able to clear the roadways to make room for emergency vehicles and snowplows.

Caltrans said snowplows were working around the clock and urged people to avoid all but essential travel in the Sierra.

Among staggering snowfall totals in the Sierra, the Northstar resort at Lake Tahoe reported 135 inches (3.43 meters) since December 21.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Winter Weather, Snow, Cold, Pacific Northwest, California
Snow, ice and unseasonable cold in the Pacific Northwest and the Sierra Nevada are continuing to disrupt traffic, cause closures and force people to find refuge in emergency warming shelters. Above, people use the parking lot of the Madelyn Helling Library in Nevada City, California, December 28, 2021, to take advantage of the American Red Cross device charging and warming center. Elias Funez/The Union via AP