Heavy snow slows traffic, briefly closes highways in Gorge

Ion Zascavnetchi (left) and his friend work to dig out their truck Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 after it got stuck on Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge. (KATU Photo)

The National Weather Service issued winter storm watches and warnings for the Columbia River Gorge, foothills and the Upper Hood River Valley as a strong storm pushed through the region Monday.

Up to six inches of snow is possible in Cascade Locks, Stevenson and Wyeth, with more than a foot possible in Hood River. The Upper Hood River Valley could receive 18 inches by the end of the day Tuesday.

Precipitation turned from rain in Troutdale to sleet near Multnomah Falls to snow in locations east of the Bonneville Dam.

Multiple crashes were reported as road conditions deteriorated.

Around 10 a.m., I-84 near Wyeth was briefly closed when a tanker truck flipped, spilling diesel onto the roadway. No one was hurt.

A few hours later, a driver lost control of his pickup truck and slid into a ditch.

"We're going to work in White Salmon," Ion Zascavnetchi told KATU. "Right now, we're stuck, but we're going to try to get out."

Zascavnetchi and his friend used a dust pan to dig their vehicle out, then used cardboard as traction mats. The cardboard did not hold up, but persistence paid off, and eventually they got out of the snowbank.

In Hood River, white-out conditions caused several wrecks on Highway 35, briefly closing the road.

A small avalanche closed portions of the highway between Mount Hood Meadows and White River. Road crews were able to clear the roadway and restore traffic.

For photographers Chase Millsap and Jeremiah Litke, snow meant an adventure.

"Maybe we'll go to 14," Litke said referring to SR 14. "If there aren't obstacles, it isn't a trip."

First responders are urging drivers to limit traveling through the Gorge, if possible.

Several travelers decided to spend the night in Cascade Locks, rather than drive the snowy Gorge at night.

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