Trucks trapped as city locked in winter's icy hold

| Monday, January 12, 2004

Truck drivers headed northwest beware: The Portland, OR, area has spent three days locked down after a combination of winter weather put life in the city on hold, media outlets and other sources reported.

Conditions have become so impassable that, according to one worker at the Jubitz Truck Stop in Portland, all traffic is shut down. Some truckers are running low on fuel and can’t even get to the pumps to fill up.

“They won’t let anyone move at all,” he said.

Another worker at the truck stop said the area had been hit with several inches of snow, and early morning weather reports said freezing rain overnight Wednesday into Thursday left a sheet of ice – sometimes a half inch deep – on top of the snow.

State climatologist George Taylor told The Oregonian that the storm – in terms of intensity and its extent – was one of the 10 worst weather events in the past 100 years.

And the storm was not over Thursday morning. Weather reports called for rain, freezing rain and wind Jan. 8 with a high temperature of 36. However, near noon the thermometer had reached only 31.

Dave Thompson of the Oregon Department of Transportation told KOIN TV that road conditions Jan. 8 were possibly the worst of the week.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said on its Web site that it was enforcing “condition B” of the state’s chain laws, requiring chains on any vehicle towing or over 10,000 GVW.

While Portland itself was showing packed snow on road surfaces, the department said on Interstate 84 in East Portland, some road surfaces were covered with black ice. Part of the highway in that area was closed to all traffic because of the severe weather conditions.

Trucking and other industries were feeling the storm’s impact. The Oregonian reported that the area’s Freightliner plant shut down, and a Jubitz worker told Land Line that the only thing at the truck stop open Wednesday was the hotel, since “that’s where we’re all staying.” A number of trucks were trapped at the facility.

Even FedEx was affected, the newspaper said, canceling all overnight deliveries in the Portland area.

However, hope is on the way for those trapped in the Northwest: The National Weather Service showed that although showers should continue through Monday, temperatures for the next several days are expected to rise well above freezing, with highs possibly into the 50s this weekend.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor

Mark Reddig can be reached at mark_reddig@landlinemag.com.

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