Three-inch snowfall shuts down outer East Portland

While weather forecasters hem-and-haw, the ‘surprise’ snow storm closes schools and businesses, but not most East Portland streets …¶

Mom, Gail, and big brother Neal help little sister Jill Budde experience her first big snowstorm by trekking through their white-blanketed neighborhood in SE Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Last week’s promise of a big winter storm fizzled out. But this week’s winter weather came as a surprise to many ‚including city and county road officials.

It’s easy to blame the TV weather folks for missing our “blizzard”. But, NOAA’s National Weather Service January 15 “weather discussion” was indecisive. They guessed there wouldn’t be much snow ‚Äì but pointed out that their computer-simulated models indicated we should prepare for a white winter event.

Looking south from the offices of East Portland News Service, seeing the clean blanket of snow made us want to sip hot cocoa by the fireplace. Instead, intrepidly, we bundled up, headed out, and covered the winter storm.

All of our area’s school districts (except for Reynolds High) cancelled classes; many businesses didn’t open or closed early, and essential transportation and safety providers scrambled to chain-up the tires on their vehicles.

Outer East Portland landmarks, like 111th Square, were blanketed by the snow that came, to many, as a surprise.

As the snow fell throughout the morning of January 16, there was an amazing amount of traffic braving the snowstorm.

Slickness and snow slows traffic
Carefully motoring out SE Powell Blvd., we saw Tri-Met busses, creeping along at 20 MPH ‚Äì without tire chains in place. When the busses stopped at SE 92nd Ave. to pick up passengers, starting up again, their rear tires whined as they slipped on snow–now packed into ice.

Car and SUV drivers illustrated various levels of skill as they slipped, slid, and skidded along the flat terrain of outer East Portland.

The driver of this Bronco, bustin’ into the Castellano Custom Furniture on NE Halsey at 107th Ave., had more confidence in his 4-wheeler than skill, cops said at the scene.

Much of the highway havoc on our streets, according to the observation of Portland East Precinct officers, was due overconfident pilots of 4-wheel- drive vehicles.

“Just because people own 4-wheel-drive vehicles makes them think they’re invincible,” an officer quipped as she looked at a vehicle that had plowed into the front of a retail business in the Gateway district.

Out in the neighborhood, enjoying the “snow day”, are Glenn Parris, Una Kim and sledders Lana and Yena with Tickles the Snow Dog.

By early afternoon, the steady fall of large, fluffy snowflakes diminished, but the winter storm had produced enough snow to make yards, parks and streets winter playgrounds.

Kids of all ages used anything on which they could slide to take advantage of gravity, on even the slightest inclines. While others engaged in foolhardy behavior – like snowboarding behind a tire-chained pickup truck – few injuries were reported in outer East Portland.

Traffic kept moving – albeit slowly – along I-205 throughout the day, as de-icing and sand truck crews worked diligently to keep the freeway and ramps open. But, slick ramps at the west end of I-84 caused a traffic jam that extended to Gateway.

Sub-freezing temperatures kept the snow around on the ground days longer than expected. Many schools stayed closed as a precaution, and most all banquets, neighborhood functions, and government events were cancelled.

However, as the daytime temperatures continue to creep back into our normal 45-degree range, the only reminders of The Winter Storm of ’07 will soon be the sand on the streets ‚Äì and longer-than-usual lines at the auto-body repair shops.

¬© 2007 ~ David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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