Northwest braces for next winter blast
Thousands still without power
December 28, 1996
PORTLAND, Oregon (CNN) -- Another icy storm could pound the Pacific Northwest this weekend, just as residents are digging out from a brutal winter storm that struck Thursday, forecasters said.
Travelers were stranded, and nearly 300,000 homes and businesses were without power in Oregon and Washington early Saturday. The two major routes across the Cascade Mountains in Washington were closed. Some sections of western Washington received 15 inches of snow.
In Oregon, more than 2 inches of freezing rain fell atop 8 inches of snow in the Columbia River Gorge.
Forecasters say the icy conditions that caused those problems Thursday and Friday may be followed by another storm Saturday night. Sections north of Seattle could receive another 5 inches to 10 inches of snow Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
Three deaths were blamed on the storm, and 15 people in the Seattle area were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning after gas escaped from a propane barbecue used to heat their mobile home, which had no electric power.
Scores of holiday travelers were stranded when at least 2 feet of snow closed the two main routes across the Cascade Range in Washington -- Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass and U.S. 2 over Stevens Pass. Interstate 90 remained closed Saturday morning.
East of Portland, Oregon, Interstate 84 was closed Saturday morning because of ice and a truck accident, Oregon State Police said.
With a second storm bearing down on the Pacific Northwest, forecasters said the situation could get worse before it gets better.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the entire state of Washington and the northern half of Oregon for Saturday night and Sunday.
"It looks like the same thing all over again," Weather Service meteorologist Bob Robinson said.
With 200 utility crews working around the clock to repair lines downed by the ice storm, Portland General Electric said power would be restored sometime Saturday to most of its 35,000 customers.
Seattle City Lights, the utility serving Seattle, said 1,100 of its customers were still without power Saturday.
In western Washington, some 186,000 customers were without power, according to Puget Sound Power and Light Co. which serves nine counties.
Betty Werblun, a spokeswoman for Puget Power, said tree limbs, heavy with snow and ice, were snapping and falling on power lines. It could take until Monday to restore power to many homes and businesses that were cut off, she said.
In northern California, residents were bracing for floods. They stacked sandbags as forecasters warned that the storm could dump more than 10 inches of rain on parts of northern and central California.
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