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Over the river, through the woods, near or far: ODOT warns of tricky travel

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Much of Oregon was grappling with slick, snowy roadways on Thanksgiving eve

(Update: Adding I-5 northbound reopening from California, with escort)

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Travelers heading out today to celebrate Thanksgiving should be prepared for a variety of challenging road conditions, depending on their route and destination, ODOT said Wednesday.

While Southern and Central Oregon have been getting hammered with snow and wind, making driving extremely hazardous, there could be high water, downed trees, landslides and other hazards in other areas of the state as well, ODOT said in a statewide update.

In Bend, officials said city crews had plowed or sanded about 75 percent of collector and arterial streets by 8 a.m. Along with crews Tuesday evening, a full crew was called out at 2 a.m. Wednesday to continue the work, with additional support Wednesday from contracted crews.

Anyone planning to travel over mountain passes and driving south into California should be particularly aware of the heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions. Interstate 5 southbound lanes have reopened at the California border, but chains are required and driving conditions remain hazardous.

ODOT said at mid-morning that while chain requirements were lifted over the Siskiyou Summit, drivers were urged to carry chains and be prepared to put them on in California, as Caltrans reported northbound I-5 still closed north of Redding for much of the day.

I-5 northbound reopened from California Wednesday afternoon, with no chain restrictions. Caltrans reported CHP was escorting traffic from north of Redding to the Oregon border. They warned to expect heavy traffic and delays, and urged waiting if possible for the backlog to subside.

Meanwhile, U.S. Highway 97 southbound is now open, with chains required at the Oregon-California border. Roads were closed overnight, some remain so, and conditions are changing frequently.

High winds and blowing snow continue to reduce visibility in Central and Southern Oregon. Travelers should expect icy and snow-packed roads over most mountain passes and in higher terrain.

ODOT recommends delaying trips through these areas until driving conditions improve, and visiting to get the latest road conditions.

Travelers need to use caution and observe a few common sense rules for navigating hazardous weather conditions.

  • Travel smart. Consider waiting until the storm passes before traveling to your destination.
  • It’s smart to allow plenty of time to get where you’re going. Expect delays and plan ahead.
  • Know before you go. Plan your route. Visit in advance to look at ODOT cameras and check conditions.
  • Carry chains while traveling over higher terrain. But more importantly, know how to use them.
  • Pack an emergency kit that includes extra water and blankets. Make sure your cell phone is charged.
  • Watch for plows. Stay at least three car lengths back. Let the plows do their work and the sooner they can get the road cleared.
  • Some areas of the state didn’t get much snow but you still need to watch out for areas of standing high water, downed trees and landslides.
  • Pay attention to the roadside variable message signs. They contain critical information about real-time conditions.
  • Be careful using GPS units to try getting around road closures. GPS may take you on roads that are unsafe to drive on. Stay on improved roads only.
  • Weather forecasters are predicting that evening temperatures will be well below freezing over the next few nights which means that any moisture on the road will freeze. Travelers should pay attention to any temperature changes, and adjust their driving accordingly.
  • Watch out Friday and Saturday along Interstate 5 in the Willamette Valley. Black Friday shopping and Saturday’s Oregon-Oregon State Civil Way game in Eugene will be causing added congestion.  

ODOT crews are on 12-hour, 24-7 schedules. In severe weather, ODOT deploys all available tools in its winter arsenal, including plows, sanders and deicers, as appropriate.  

For the latest information on road conditions, visit (We have a TripCheck page as well as a local Webcams page.)

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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