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Winter weather coming Christmas Eve, travelers should leave early if possible

Columbia River Gorge on Dec. 23, 2017 - KATU photo{ }

TROUTDALE, Ore. – For those who still need to travel Sunday, officials say the earlier you can leave, the better.

Residents in the Columbia River Gorge woke up to snow on the ground Saturday morning as far west as Multnomah Falls.

“It's clean, it's crisp, it just feels like a whole new day,” said Tammy Quincy, who lives in Sakamania.

It prompted some travel concerns for those headed out for the holidays. Oregon’s Department of Transportation warned drivers on Interstate 84 of potential spots with black ice in the gorge on Saturday afternoon.

“Oh no.... oh no there is snow,” said Vicki Swyers. “I don't know if I'm going to make it to Portland.”

The snow didn’t end up being a problem for Swyers, but gorge residents and those travelling through may see a bigger issue Sunday morning. The National Weather Service issued a winter weather watch for the gorge. They are predicting snow and or ice.

“I made arrangement with my friends Jerry and Christy if worse comes to worst, I'll spend the night with them,” said Quincy, who needs to get to work Sunday morning but made contingency plans. “If Jerry has to come get me, he'll pick me up and take me to work.”

She says Sunday’s storm is something they are used to.

“I'm not worried, I figured nothing could be as worse as last year, and after last year I think more people are more prepared for this situation than that. I know we're ready, if it comes it comes, nothing you can do,” she said.

Due to timing of the storm, the National Weather Service in Portland recommends drivers leave early if possible. "The earlier you can leave, the better," they posted to Twitter.

ODOT says they have been putting anti-icing agents on Portland-area roads for several days, including Saturday.

“A little bit of anything might be coming out of the sky. We have the plow blades ready to put on to our trucks, we have de-icer, we have sand in there and ready to go in there too,” said Don Hamilton, an ODOT spokesperson.

Hamilton says crews are watching the forecast and will pay attention to known trouble spots Sunday like the hills to the south and west of Portland. The gorge will also be a major concern.

ODOT incident response trucks will also be out in full force Sunday.

“20 Hours a day. They're patrolling the Portland area freeways, and can give you a gallon of gas to get you off the road, can get you a push to get you off the road, can help change your tire. When something goes wrong on the highways, the incident response trucks go and try to help you out,” Hamilton said.

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