Stores close early as second winter storm in as many days pummels Pacific Northwest

The Associated Press

Postal employee Lisa Calloway trudges through the snow as she delivers mail in Eugene, Ore. on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. Snowfall starting late in the morning Friday will be widespread, dropping a foot or more in mountainous parts of Southern Oregon and 2 to 8 inches in Western Oregon valleys that got slammed Thursday, the National Weather Service said. (AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Brian Davies)

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By STEVEN DUBOIS, Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Northwest residents absorbed the second blow of a 1-2 winter punch Friday by taking a snow day and keeping their cars in the garage.

In downtown Portland, streets coated with a thin layer of packed snow were nearly traffic-free before the first flurries fell in the afternoon. Shops closed early or didn't open at all, office buildings generally packed with workers were quiet, and the city government was closed to all but essential personnel.

It was a similar scene throughout western Oregon and southwest Washington as the region awaited and then received its second winter storm in two days.

The storm was expected to drop a foot or more of snow in mountainous parts of southern Oregon and 2 to 8 inches in western Oregon valleys that got slammed Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

The snow was expected to turn to freezing rain Friday night and Saturday in many areas. That will turn roadways icy and increase the possibility of downed power lines, forecasters warned.

The first storm dropped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Pacific Northwest and left one person dead in an Interstate 5 pileup in southwest Washington. It also closed schools and offices.

The new storm did not lead to any immediate reports of fatal crashes or massive traffic jams.

Don Hamilton, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said Friday's greatly reduced traffic helped crews keep highways relatively clear. He urged continued patience and for people to drive only when absolutely necessary.

"This storm will end, and we'll get to the other side of this," Hamilton said. "So far, with the roads nice and empty today, we've been able to get some serious maintenance work done."

Portland International Airport reported 19 flights cancelled by Friday afternoon — a mixture of arrivals and departures — but said most flights were expected to continue. The airport averages about 500 flights daily.

The snow started falling and swirling in the morning in Eugene, home to the University of Oregon, and several inches of fresh snow were on the ground by late afternoon.

"It looks like a snow globe," said Melinda McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the Eugene Police Department.

With schools closed and many workers staying home, only a few crashes were reported before noon, McLaughlin said. It was a sharp contrast from Thursday, when Lane County paramedics and police responded to scores of accidents.

"It's Friday and so maybe a lot of people have just stayed home with the weekend coming," she said.

The twin storms socked a region more accustomed to rain than snow, leading organizers of several events to scrap or postpone their plans. They included a home show in Albany; a fundraiser for suicide prevention at the Portland Art Museum; and a memorial service for Lorane Fire Chief Joe Brewer that was expected to draw firefighters from across the state.

In bike-passionate Portland, organizers of the annual "Worst Day of the Year Ride" are going ahead with this weekend's 15-mile ride through downtown. A more challenging 46-mile ride through the hilly west side was canceled.

Also postponed were "Polar Bear Plunges" scheduled for Saturday in Corvallis, Eugene and Portland. The annual events send swimmers into cold winter water to benefit Special Olympics.

Team recruitment manager Lindsey Warner said travel conditions, a shuttle bus cancellation and the inability to set up changing tents because of the storms led to the decision.

"It's the Polar Plunge; we're not scared of the cold," Warner said.

"We want it to be, you know, a little painful — gotta have something to brag about," she added. "But we want it to actually be a good, well-thought-out and safe event."

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