Forest Grove crews plow and sand roads, clear down trees and restore power

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEVE OSBURN - Pacific University is closed today. Power companies and road crews scrambled Wednesday morning to respond to a snowstorm that left as much as a foot of snow on the ground across the Portland area overnight.

All Washington County school districts, including Forest Grove, Banks and Gaston schools, were closed, along with most libraries and other public facilities.The Forest Grove City Library was the only one in the Washington County library system to open, although only for about three hours, from 12:15 to 3 p.m. Other city of Forest Grove departments remained open with limited services. NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEVE OSBURN - A small tree came down near the Forest Grove United Church of Christ.

Due to the loss of electrical power affecting several buildings in the downtown Hillsboro area, Washington County halted all operations except for those supporting winter storm response, the animal shelter and emergency or other 24-hour services. The announcement came at around 10:30 a.m. today, Wednesday, Jan. 11.

Virginia Garcia clinics and Pacific University locations are also closed.

The Forest Grove Public Works Department was hard at work this moring clearing several down trees, one of which took out power to customers around 8 a.m. near the intersection of David Hill Road and Forest Gale Drive, according to Rick Vanderkin, public works superintendent. NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEVE OSBURN - The Forest Theatre was covered in snow, like all the other local businesses.

The other trees came down across roadways near the Douglas Street and 13th Avenue intersection, as well as at Knox Ridge Terrace and Gales Creek Road.

Forest Grove Fire & Rescue responded to a tree that crashed into a house in the Glenwood area, causing a small fire when it damaged the chimney but the property owner managed to put the fire out, said Forest Grove Fire and Rescue spokesman Dave Nemeyer.

The city's two snow plows cleared 19th and Pacific avenues, E Street and Forest Gale Drive where crews also salted the roads. Later today, Vanderkin said crews are planning to plow and sand Sunset Drive, along with B, Maple and Elm streets.

The blast of wintry weather, which dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Westside overnight after beginning Tuesday evening, came just days after a smaller system brought light snow and freezing rain to the area Saturday. It is the fourth major winter storm to lash the region in the past month, after snowfalls on Dec. 9 and 14 that both affected evening commutes.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEVE OSBURN - A young Forest Grove resident enjoys a jaunt outdoors in this winter wonderland.

But this week's storm brought the largest snow totals, according to the National Weather Service's Portland forecast office, with Tuesday being the snowiest calendar day since Dec. 20, 2008.

Initial forecasts for the snowstorm had between 1 and 4 inches falling. The NWS admitted on Twitter late Tuesday night that the force of the storm came as a surprise, as its modeling predicted at most 6 inches for the region.

"We under-forecast this event," NWS Portland wrote. "This storm wayyy over-performed."

A Tuesday evening, snow-related crash on Highway 47 near Gaston caused only minor injuries, said Nemeyer, who hadn't heard of any other crashes as of Wednesday afternoon.

Portland General Electric also reported about 37,000 customers without power as of 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. By midday, PGE crews were attempting to respond to more than 600 separate outages.

Downed trees and power lines colluded with the deep snow to badly snarl traffic on major highways and freeways. At one point Wednesday morning, Interstate 5 was closed at Barbur Boulevard between Tigard and Portland to allow for plowing. Trees were reported to have fallen on Highway 26 and Interstate 205.

KOIN 6 News, The Times' media affiliate, reported that hundreds of cars were abandoned on roads and freeways across the region.

KOIN 6 News contributed to this report.

KOIN 6 News and Pamplin Media Group reporters Mark Miller, Stephanie Haugen and Jill Rehkopf Smith contributed to this report.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEVE OSBURN - Pacific Avenue hasn't been seeing a lot of traffic today.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEVE OSBURN - Valley Art's mural has an extra something special today.

Snow is thick on local shrubs and trees.

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