SEATTLE (AP) – A thaw-out comes for frozen Seattle and Portland, Oregon, but not before another round of snow that could exacerbate problems for a region more accustomed to winter rain than Arctic explosions.
More snow and rain fell on California on Wednesday, causing travel disruptions on mountain routes and increasing the risk of waste streams from forest fires.
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.
Forecasters say parts of western Washington could see up to 3 inches (7.6 inches) of snow on Thursday and northwestern Oregon could see a similar amount.
The normally temperate part of the Pacific Northwest has been shaking with temperatures hitting the single-digit areas in some areas this week after extreme cold air from Canada’s Fraser River Valley blew in Sunday.
Snow and ice have made travel treacherous in some parts, forcing closures and travel delays, and forcing people to seek refuge in emergency shelters.
The weather and pandemic have forced the cancellation of nearly 1,300 flights in and out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport since Sunday. The situation has been acute in Alaska, where hundreds of passengers, many from coastal villages, have been stranded in the town of Bethel due to bad weather and poorly equipped airports.
Temperatures could rise above freezing in Seattle on Thursday and become even warmer in Portland before the airflow from the Pacific Ocean blows into the weekend, causing mercury to rise to more seasonal heights in the 40s Fahrenheit (4.4 Celsius).
Oregon government officials have declared a state of emergency. In Multnomah County – home of Portland – about half a dozen cabins were open this week. A similar number of shelters were opened in Seattle’s King County, which also declared an emergency.
Seattle executives said city shelters will remain open through the new year.
Winter weather and a return to pre-pandemic traffic levels have resulted in hundreds of accidents on Oregon roads this holiday season.
Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that between December 23 and December 28, there were 915 traffic accidents in the state. In the same period last year, there were 365 accidents and 237 in 2019, according to Oregon State Police. The number of deaths has not yet been determined.
David House, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the high number of accidents over the past week is a reminder to travelers to be careful and prepare for slippery conditions.
“If you can sit tight for a few more days, just avoid getting out there, it will be the safest thing you can do at all,” House said.
In Nevada, a statement issued by Governor Steve Sisolak’s office said the emergency declaration will allow government officials to order vehicles entering mountain highways to turn around and return to lower altitudes until weather conditions subside and lanes are safe to use.
“This will help prevent motorists from being stranded overnight on the roads and potentially running out of gas in freezing temperatures without access to emergency services,” the statement said.
It said US 50 and State Routes 207 and 28 experienced long delays and dangerous conditions and that authorities must be able to clear the roads to make room for emergency vehicles and snow plows.
Caltrans said snow plows worked around the clock, urging people to avoid anything but significant travel in the Sierra.
Amid staggering snowfall in the Sierra, the Northstar resort on Lake Tahoe reported 135 inches (3.43 meters) since December 21st.