Pacific Northwest hunkers down for ice and freezing rain, while other US regions also battle cold

PORTLAND, Ore. — Parts of the Pacific Northwest were under an ice storm warning through Wednesday morning, threatening to add to the damage caused by a powerful winter storm that hit the region this weekend.

The area of ​​southwestern Washington and western Oregon — including that state’s largest cities, Portland, Salem and Eugene — was expecting 6 to 25 millimeters of ice, while freezing rain was forecast in the Seattle area.

Schools were closed in many places, bus services curtailed and warming shelters opened as officials warned of continued treacherous road conditions and the potential for new power outages as crews struggled to restore electricity to thousands of people who had been without power for days .

The forecast came as much of the United States experienced bitter weather that threatened electricity supplies in some places. Another day of record cold temperatures engulfed much of the Rockies, the Great Plains and the Midwest on Tuesday, with wind chills below minus 30 (minus 34.4 degrees Celsius) extending as far as mid-Mississippi Valley. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, New York and Philadelphia ended a drought of sorts, with both cities receiving enough snow to play.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity in seven states, has asked customers to voluntarily cut back, citing high demand for power due to the cold. A similar plea came from the grid operator in Texas.

In Oregon, transportation officials closed 47 miles of Interstate 84, a major east-west highway that runs from Portland through the Columbia River Gorge, due to the threat of ice.

In the mountains, the National Weather Service warned of heavy snow in the Cascades with wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour, mixed with freezing rain and ice that could make travel “very difficult to impossible.” There was a storm warning in effect on Thursday afternoon.

The Pacific Northwest is known more for its rain and would not experience such Arctic temperatures, but the heavily forested region is especially susceptible to the danger of falling trees and power lines, especially during ice storms.

“We’re lucky to be alive,” said Justin Brooks as he used a chainsaw Tuesday to cut the trunks of two massive trees that narrowly missed his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon, when they toppled on Saturday.

Elsewhere in Lake Oswego, arborist Ryan Cafferky climbed a towering 150-foot tree on Tuesday to begin the arduous process of cutting it down. The city considered the 120-year-old tree a threat to the public because it was in danger of falling, he said.

About 52,000 people in Oregon were still without power as of Tuesday evening, according to the website Forecasters warned residents to prepare for more power outages.

In the Portland metropolitan area, about two dozen shuttle buses had been suspended or rerouted to avoid dangerous roads since storms surrounded the area a few days ago.

The weekend weather of snow and high winds was blamed for at least seven deaths, including those of a man who died when a tree struck his Lake Oswego home, and a woman who died when a tree crushed a recreational vehicle in Portland, causing her got stuck and started a fire, authorities said.

Five people in Oregon are believed to have died of hypothermia, authorities said.

Warmer air was expected to provide some relief from the frigid weather that began later Wednesday.

However, the icy morning forecast prompted Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest district, to cancel classes for a second day on Wednesday amid concerns about possible power problems, burst pipes and unsafe school paths and parking.

Beaverton School District also canceled Wednesday classes, noting that some buildings still lacked power and heat.

Courts, libraries and parks were also closed in Portland and other parts of Multnomah County.

County officials extended the state of emergency until Wednesday afternoon and decided to keep a record 12 overnight severe weather shelters open another night. The province said 1,181 people were sleeping in shelters Monday night, breaking the previous night’s record of 1,136.

Officials issued an urgent appeal for volunteers, citing high demand for shelter services in an area where thousands of people live outdoors and are at risk of exposure to the cold.

“The real constraint for us right now is staffing levels,” said Dan Field, director of the county-city joint homelessness office. “We need to have enough people to keep the doors of the emergency shelters open.”