Oregon grapples with aftermath of winter storm

With no competition from cars, kids were having fun on hilly, snow-slickened streets

Content Dam Elp Online Articles 2016 12 Oregon Storm Elp

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Erick Daza's girlfriend had to abandon her car in the winter storm that paralyzed the Portland area.

On Thursday, Daza and a friend were tasked with retrieving it on a suburban road after only 1-to-3 inches of snow brought Oregon's largest city to a halt.

Like thousands of others, Daza's girlfriend on Wednesday left work early to try to beat the storm that was creeping north up the Willamette Valley. Abandoned cars still littered streets in Portland and its suburbs the day after a couple of inches of snow brought traffic to a standstill for several hours.

She got stranded in Lake Oswego, a Portland suburb.

"She was trying to go up the hill and she got stuck ... and some nice person gave her a ride home. She was just trying to get home and didn't make it," he said. "We have snow chains but she didn't have them. We just didn't expect this."

In Linn County about 70 miles south of Portland, sheriff's detectives said a man's body was found covered by a thin layer of snow. Sheriff Bruce Riley says deputies and detectives responded Wednesday night after a caller reported that a stranger was dead in his driveway east of Albany. There was no sign of foul play.

Back roads remained extremely slippery with a layer of ice under the snow. Cars without snow chains or tires still struggled to get around and there was almost no traffic on smaller roads.

With no competition from cars, kids were having fun on hilly, snow-slickened streets.

Kevin Baker of Lake Oswego watched his twins sled down one of those streets, but he was still thinking about the traffic nightmare that hit a day earlier. What normally is about a three-to-four hour drive from Seattle took him eight hours Wednesday.

Baker and others talked about whether the city could do more to keep roads clear of snow and ice during a big storm. The Portland area does not use rock salt, for environmental reasons, and because winter storms are rare here.

"Right now they use gravel but they have to do something more than what they were doing last night, because it was unbearable," Baker said.

On another Lake Oswego street, Sarah Ehinger was out sledding with her own two children, joined by about a half-dozen other kids and their parents. Every time a car crept by, a chorus of kids shouted out, "Car!"

Ehinger, who is originally from the Midwest, said she didn't agree with Portlanders who were criticizing the city for not using salt during a big storm.

"I enjoy a good snow day, so I say don't plow and let Mother Nature do its work," she said. "But I can see if you have to get to work, they have to do something."

Portland is so rarely hit by a big winter storm that it catches many people off guard. It happened again with this storm.

There were some scary moments during the storm. A school bus lost control on a hill in southwest Portland on Wednesday, ramming into the back of a truck, which rammed into a car.

Some school kids had to wait hours to get home because their buses were stuck in the traffic chaos.

In Eugene, two hours south of Portland, a car went into a pond Wednesday night. The driver got out safely.

Eugene on Thursday was still dealing with icy roads and streets. Officials asked people to use the roads only if they needed to. Utility crews scrambled to deal with power outages.

In California, one of the strongest rainstorms of the season was expected to hit the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday. The storm could soak the region with as much as 2 inches and bring high tides and strong wind gusts that could snarl commutes.

Winds could hit 50 miles an hour in some parts of the Bay Area.

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