Ice Storm Redux: Pacific Northwest Prepares for Another Wave After Deadly Weekend
The Pacific Northwest grapples with ongoing freezing rain, worsening the aftermath of a weekend ice storm that left thousands without power and led to at least seven fatalities.
The Seattle area, along with parts of southwest Washington and western Oregon, including major cities like Portland, Salem, and Eugene, are under an ice storm warning, with meteorologists predicting up to half an inch of ice accumulation through early Wednesday.
While the Pacific Northwest is not accustomed to Arctic temperatures or significant snowfall, its heavily forested terrain makes it susceptible to the dangers of falling trees and power lines, particularly during freezing rain and ice storms.
Freezing rain, which falls as liquid but freezes upon contact with cold surfaces, can weigh down trees and power lines, increasing the risk of breakage, especially in the face of strong winds. Previous ice storms in 2017 and 2021 have already paralyzed the region and left hundreds of thousands without power.
The hazardous conditions have prompted Oregon transportation officials to close 47 miles of Interstate 84, a major east-west highway running through the Columbia River Gorge, due to the icy forecast. Ice accumulation, known for creating treacherous driving conditions, led to the decision to ensure public safety.
Fatalities Amidst Ice Storm Chaos
The weekend weather, which included snow and strong winds, has already claimed lives, with reports of at least seven fatalities. One incident involved a man in Lake Oswego who was killed when a tree struck his house, and a woman in Portland who died when a tree crushed a recreational vehicle, trapping her and causing a fire.
Residents are grappling with the aftermath of the storm, with many facing power outages. As of midday Tuesday, around 52,000 people in Oregon were still without power. The National Weather Service has warned of the potential for more outages.
The ice storm forecast has prompted Portland Public Schools, the largest district in the state, to cancel classes for Tuesday and Wednesday. This comes as an additional setback to students who already experienced disrupted in-person learning due to a teachers’ strike in November.
County officials in Multnomah County have extended a weather state of emergency until noon Wednesday, with a record 12 overnight emergency weather shelters remaining open for an additional night.
The urgent call for volunteers reflects the high demand for shelter services, particularly in an area where thousands of people are exposed to the cold. Staffing remains a critical concern, as officials work to ensure the safety and well-being of those seeking refuge from the icy conditions.