ODOT apologizes to drivers stranded in Gorge overnight

The backup on Interstate 84 overnight Tuesday lasted hours. Some travelers KATU spoke to said they were stuck for more than 17 hours. (KATU Photo)

Oregon's Department of Transportation is apologizing to people who had to sleep in their cars overnight after Interstate 84 near Hood River was iced over Tuesday night and through most of the day Wednesday.

"We certainly realize that this has been a very, very difficult situation for folks out there," said ODOT spokesperson Don Hamilton. "Nobody should have to go through what some of these folks have been going through."

KATU News spoke with drivers who had been stuck on the highway for more than 17 hours.

ODOT blames the rapidly changing weather conditions.

"I hate to say they caught us by surprise, but they caught us by surprise," Hamilton said.

De-icer and salt were put down ahead of the storm. ODOT says it washed away, so they re-applied it to the road, but it washed out a second time.

Hamilton says the agency will be reviewing every decision that was made. While ODOT apologizes to drivers, the department would not go so far as to say it made a mistake by not closing the highway before conditions got worse, causing the semi-trucks to get stuck in the snow.

Around 4 a.m., tow truck driver Norm Mynatt says he got a call to head into the Columbia River Gorge to pull the stranded semi-trucks out of the ice.

"There were so many semi-trucks that were having issues, clogging up the movement of the freeway," Mynatt said. "Everything that had settled on the road was trying to break up, and it was just extremely rough."

"If people from the Oregon DOT are not terminated effective tomorrow morning, I would be shocked," said one driver who was stuck on I-84:

Many truck drivers jackknifed because they didn’t have chains. Why police can’t check to make sure every driver’s chained up:

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