Cars abandoned on snowy interstate cause traffic trouble

Interstate 5 is seeing more grid-lock in a city that's sick of it following two days of snow

Truck got stuck along I-5 during a heavy snowstorm in Portland, January 11, 2017 (KOIN)
Truck got stuck along I-5 during a heavy snowstorm in Portland, January 11, 2017 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — While some Portland roads are finally being cleared of any snow and ice, there are still some trouble spots.

Interstate 5 is seeing more grid-lock in a city that’s sick of it following two days of snow.

Tractor-trailers jackknifed , and a number of cars were abandoned on the Marquam Bridge on Interstate 5 during the snowstorm. Some drivers were trapped inside their vehicles for hours.

Many cars remained stuck on Thursday, covered in ice and snow from plowing and snowfall.

One family who was digging out a car that their son ditched after becoming stuck in the Sylvan Hill area spoke with KOIN 6 News about the ordeal.

“We got the snow out of the way, and we got the car jump-started, and as soon as they put the chains on, I think they can go,” said one driver Usha Vemuri. “We came by yesterday. We didn’t have a shovel or anything, so we couldn’t get the car out.  Today we came back with a shovel, chains and some sand to try to get the car out.”

Don Hamilton with the Oregon Department of Transportation, January 12, 2017 (KOIN)
Don Hamilton with the Oregon Department of Transportation, January 12, 2017 (KOIN)

Oregon Department of Transportation Spokesperson Don Hamilton said the state hires contractors to tow cars off the highway and bring them to several different lots in the area, including a lot by the Oregon Zoo, one by OMSI and on Interstate 5 by exit 294.

Hamilton said the quicker they can get vehicles there, the faster they can fully clear the roads and open some areas of the highway.

Dave Thompson of ODOT said drivers may notice as they drive around there are still a lot of cars on the road.

He said they try to give people a grace period to pick up their car. So, a lot of the towing started late Wednesday night.  Crews weren’t necessarily running out there immediately after the snow stopped to move cars.

When asked if drivers would have to pay a fee if their car is towed by one of the contractors, Thompson said he didn’t know.

ODOT said they’ve already towed hundreds of cars, but that’s only an estimate because they contract out. Thompson said they don’t keep track of the total number of cars towed.