Snow and cold here until at least through Saturday night

PORTLAND, Ore. - The snow is here and it is expected to be around through at least late Saturday night or Sunday morning before a push of warmer air breaks through from the southwest.

{>}{>}Watch forecast

The Portland metro area could get up to 5 inches of snow in some spots by Thursday night, with another storm coming along Friday afternoon and into the weekend, KATU meteorologists say.

KATU Meteorologist Dave Salesky says the snow will taper off between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. but the region should prepare for another system of snow moving in midday Friday.

"This will continue for some days to come, not just a few hours, but for days to come," said Salesky.

Many schools announced early releases on Thursday morning and closures for Friday.

Drivers should be prepared for snow on the ground early Friday morning and for a messy commute Friday afternoon as more snow will be falling at that time.

A blizzard warning is in effect for the Columbia River Gorge with strong east winds of 40 mph to 55 mph. Drivers should be aware of possible snow drifts of several inches in wind protected areas of the freeway.

A system coming in off the Southern Oregon coast brought moisture into the Willamette Valley by mid-morning Thursday. It pushed temperatures down to the high teens and upper 20s in Portland.

The National Weather Service in Portland said snow will increase throughout the day and could make for a dangerous evening commute. Depending on where you live, you could see up to 6 inches, according to the weather service.

Snow was piling up all over the region Thursday, including the Willamette Valley. Clark County, Wash. and areas south of Portland, including, Salem, were seeing high accumulations of snow. Ridgefield was seeing three to four inches by Thursday afternoon and Salem had about four inches. Portland had about 1 to 2 inches.

Another round of winter weather is forecast to come on the heels of this first storm, likely midday Friday.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the Portland-Vancouver metro area, the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast Range.

The warning is in effect until 4 a.m. Friday.

Forecasters also say it will be the most widespread snow event for the northern and central Willamette Valley since December 2009.

Major wrecks

The Oregon Department of Transportation says one lane of traffic southbound has been opened north of Albany where crews are trying to clear wreckage from a major pileup.

State officials estimated 25 vehicles, including semitrailer trucks, crashed in clusters when snowfall moved in quickly.

The state says traffic is still backed up for a long distance, and there could be intermittent stoppages as crews move disabled vehicles.

In Washington, a major wreck involving at least 20 cars near the Gee Creek Rest Area on Interstate 5 killed one man and injured three, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The wreck closed the freeway in both directions at about 10:30 a.m. By the afternoon all lanes were opened but the going was slow and the backup stretched for miles.

TriMet information

TriMet said Thursday that the weather conditions and heavy traffic is causing major delays throughout the system and riders should plan for a lot of extra travel time.

Check its Service Alerts' page for updates.

Portland employees report to work as usual

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales says city offices are open during normal business hours and employees are expected to work their normal shifts. He says employees who can't safely make it to work or will be late, should notified their supervisors.

Tips to keep your car going in cold weather

"You want the oil to get in there and get your lubrication right. At least let it run a couple minutes. If not, basically you're looking at some engine damage on the cylinders and what not because it doesn't have any lubrication to get the pistons going," said Jeremy Potwood of Les Schwab.

He said it could cost thousands of dollars in engine damage to car if not warmed up.

Other car tips:

  • Check batterycold can drain it much faster.
  • Check air pressure in tires. Unbalanced tires could be dangerous to maneuver on slick or snowy roads.
  • Also: frostbite sets in, in fewer than 30 minutes if your skin is exposed with current wind chill.
  • Use hand warmers, gloves, preferably lined mittens to keep heat in.

Winter driving tips from ODOT

If severe winter conditions arrive, ODOT says it will deploy all available tools in its winter arsenal, including plows, sanders and deicers, as appropriate.

Here are some tips for travelers should an icy winter storm strike.

  • No one can safely drive on ice. If roads get icy, consider not driving or delaying your trip until the weather warms and the ice thaws.
  • In ice or snow, allow plenty of stopping distance and watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists because stopping distances are so much longer.
  • ODOT sand trucks, plows and deicer trucks can't clear roads clogged with traffic. The more traffic stays off the road, the quicker roads can be treated.
  • Consider leaving the driving to the professionals and taking mass transit. Consider walking, riding a bike, working from home or taking the day off until the roads are clear.
  • Don't abandon a vehicle in heavy traffic. This delays emergency responders, prevents plows and other maintenance equipment from getting through.

Frozen Pipes

People living in Portland with no running water at home should call the Portland Water Bureau's 24/7 Emergency Hotline at 503-823-4874.

If you think your pipes are frozen, the Water Bureau recommends turning on faucets throughout the home. If some work and others don't, there may be a frozen pipe.

To thaw your pipes safely, the Water Bureau recommends using a hair dryer or heat lamp; never use an open flame. Once the pipe has thawed, leave a small amount of water running so it doesn't freeze again.

Watch the Forecast:

The Associated Press contributed to this story.