Snow hits Portland, snarls traffic, closes schools

Traffic is backed up on Interstate 5 South after a multiple-vehicle crash near Albany, Ore., on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Oregon's dry winter was interrupted Thursday by a storm that was expected to drop snow throughout the state, with as many as nine inches accumulating in the central Willamette Valley. Stormy conditions early in the day snarled traffic on Interstate 5 around Salem and Albany. (AP Photo/Statesman-Journal, Danielle Peterson)
Traffic is backed up on Interstate 5 South after a multiple-vehicle crash near Albany, Ore., on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Oregon's dry winter was interrupted Thursday by a storm that was expected to drop snow throughout the state, with as many as nine inches accumulating in the central Willamette Valley. Stormy conditions early in the day snarled traffic on Interstate 5 around Salem and Albany. (AP Photo/Statesman-Journal, Danielle Peterson)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Snow and ice hit Oregon Thursday, causing dozens of crashes on highways all across the state and prompting school districts throughout the region to cancel classes or release students early.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Portland and Vancouver areas and the entire Interstate 5 corridor from 10 a.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday. By the early morning, snow had already begun to fall in the Central and Southern Willamette Valley. Snow flurries began falling in Portland by noon. They were expected to continue through Friday, before taper off by Friday afternoon.

The metro area could see anywhere from 1 to 5 inches Thursday, with the highest accumulation coming in southwest of Portland. Road conditions are expected to worsen as the day goes along. The evening rush hour commute could be especially treacherous.

“Snow will … spread north into the area by the afternoon, causing a messy evening commute,” KOIN Meteorologist Riley O’Connor said. “With winds gusting to near 40 miles per hour, blowing snow is expected.”

At about 8:30 a.m. a massive chain reaction crash involving 20 to 25 vehicles shut down Interstate 5 southbound about three miles north of Albany. Traffic was backed up for miles. One southbound lane finally reopened at about 1 p.m. to allow vehicles to snake through.

Meanwhile, another series of crashes closed I-5 in both directions between Ridgefield and Battle Ground in Clark County. Crews were able to reopen one lane in both directions by 1 p.m. Southbound traffic was reportedly backed up 10 miles all the way to Woodland.

Several crashes were reported throughout the region, including Highway 101 on the coast and Oregon Route 58 through the Cascade foothills and passes. OSP said residents in the central and South Willamette Valley should avoid driving unless absolutely necessary.

Portland International Airport reported that travelers should check their flight schedules as cancellations and delays are possible.

Strong winds sent a tree crashing down onto a home in Northwest Portland. Wind snapped the tree in half, damaging the roof and piercing the garage on Northwest Park View Boulevard. No one was hurt.

Portland Public Schools, Beaverton, Corbett, North Clackamas, Lake Oswego, Tigard-Tualatin, Sherwood, Parkrose and Gresham-Barlow school districts were among those all announced they were releasing students two to three hours early. All Clark County school districts were doing the same. Schools in Marion, Polk, Linn, Benton and Lane counties were closed Thursday, along with most schools in the Columbia River Gorge.

Many schools — including Vancouver, Tigard, Tualatin — already announced they would be closed on Friday.

Oregon State University shut down its campus. Portland Community College was closing at 2 p.m., while Mount Hood Community College was closing at noon. Western Oregon University was closing at 11 a.m. and Linn-Benton Community College was closing at noon.

Portland Parks & Recreation was closing all its community centers Thursday afternoon.

For the latest KOIN weather forecast click here. For the latest road condition information visit TripCheck.com. Click here for public transportation alerts. Send your weather pictures to ReportIt@Koin.com.

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