A tale of 2 storms: Oregon and Washington tackle ice

ODOT will start using rock salt in extreme conditions

An ODOT snow plow, December 14, 2016 (KOIN)
An ODOT snow plow, December 14, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the days since a snow storm paralyzed the metro area, it’s clear that Portland and Vancouver were dealing with 2 very different scenarios.

“It’s not just a tale of 2 cities, it’s a tale of 2 different storms,” Dave Thompson with ODOT said.

The storm dumped snow all over the region, bringing the evening drive to a crawl.

Google Maps view of Portland area traffic around 3:30 p.m. on December 14, 2016. (Google)
Google Maps view of Portland area traffic around 3:30 p.m. on December 14, 2016. (Google)

“In our case, virtually everybody in downtown Portland jumped on the road when the storm hit,” Thompson said.

Heavy traffic continued throughout the night, causing extreme delays for Trimet and school buses alike.

In Vancouver, things weren’t nearly as bad.

Scroll over each bar to see the area and amount of snow

“There are a number of factors at play when it comes to treating roads during a winter snow event,” Bart Treece with Washington’s Department of Transportation said.

WSDOT used the same magnesium chloride de-icer on Clark County streets that was used in Oregon, but streets there weren’t as busy as in Portland.

“Our freeway system is not as complicated as some others,” Treece said.

The WSDOT crews also used rock salt on roads, which melts ice more quickly than the alternative, but is not generally used in Oregon due to environmental concerns.

Traffic inches along SW Barbur Boulevard during a snowstorm, December 14, 2016. (KOIN)
Traffic inches along SW Barbur Boulevard during a snowstorm, December 14, 2016. (KOIN)

“We use a solid salt and we pre-wet that salt so it kind of activates when it hits the roadway,” Treece said. “But we only use just enough to get the job done.”

Don Hamilton, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said Friday the department will begin using rock salt during extreme winter conditions in areas that are usually problem areas for motorists during a storm.

Hamilton said it will be done not as a rule of thumb, but on a case by case basis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.