LA GRANDE, Ore. — Friday the 13th lived up to its reputation when it came to the weather.
The first major winter storm of the season descended on Northeast Oregon on Friday, bringing dangerous driving conditions, road closures and heavy snowfall in the mountains.
The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for Oregon’s Blue Mountains on Friday morning through Saturday at 4 a.m. The NWS predicted 8 to 20 inches of snowfall to accumulate in areas above 3,000 feet and winds gusting up to 40 mph.
The NWS cautioned drivers that “travel could be very difficult to impossible” Friday, and the winter storm proved that out.
The Oregon Department of Transportation reported about a dozen semitrailers slid off the eastbound side of Interstate 84 near North Powder between mileposts 287 and 289. ODOT shut down the eastbound freeway from exit 216 near Pendleton to exit 302 at Baker City for several hours.
Tom Strandberg, spokesperson for ODOT, said icy roads and high winds made for poor road conditions.
“Numerous slide-offs indicate that folks are not able to maintain control of the vehicles on the road, and that means it’s time for us to close them until conditions improve,” Strandberg said.
ODOT crews also are using salt and sand and other tools to help de-ice the roads. Strandberg advised to avoid driving as much as possible until conditions improve.
The state transportation department also closed Highway 204 between mileposts 10-40, about 11 miles east of the intersection with Highway 11, due to high winds, heavy snow and potential for down trees.
NWS Friday morning cautioned drivers to “keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.”
After the storm, La Grande is likely to have snow then a mix of snow and rain Saturday. That drops off to a chance of rain Sunday, with the daytime high near 45 and overnight low of 31.
Monday’s high could be near 47 with a chance of rain and snow. Monday looks to be cloudy with a slight chance of rain.