Gov. Brown declares emergency after big snowstorm

Portland gets up to a foot of snow

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has declared a state of emergency due to severe winter storm conditions.

Brown said in a news release Wednesday the declaration came at the request of local officials and was based on recommendations from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

"As snow continues to accumulate and local authorities respond to provide core services and clear roadways, all available state resources will be made available to ensure the safety of communities throughout Oregon," Brown said in the release.

The declaration allows the deployment of Oregon State Police and the Oregon National Guard to support to communities needing assistance.

The declaration also allows for aid in recovery efforts related to the recent of series of severe winter storms.

The state of emergency is in effect for 30 days, unless terminated sooner by the governor.

A major snowstorm spread through Portland and southwest Washington, toppling trees, closing schools and cutting power to thousands.

The National Weather Service said parts of Portland got up to a foot of snow, a rare event in a city known for its rain.

The snow began at the end of Tuesday's rush-hour commute, so the roads were free of heavy traffic during the storm. Still, some cars were left abandoned on highways and the state Department of Transportation warned drivers to stay home Wednesday, if possible.

Several large branches were down near Portland State University and Portland General Electric reported that more than 30,000 customers are without power.

Crook County officials have asked the state for money, equipment and manpower to help plow rural roads that the Central Oregon county does not maintain.

Some roads have reportedly been covered in snow drifts up to 8 feet deep. Crook County Judge Seth Crawford tells The Bulletin newspaper they're impassible and people who live in neighborhoods including Juniper Acres and Prineville Lake Acres can't leave to get supplies. Some may be running low on food and heat.

Maya Bamer lives in Juniper Acres, an off-the-grid subdivision southwest of Prineville. She says snowmobiles are being used to deliver the donated goods to snowed-in families.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, says he's been assured by the governor's office and state agencies that residents who may be in danger will get assistance.

Earlier Wednesday, Portland police officers were on the lookout for stranded motorists, offering transportation to safe, warm locations.

Sgt. Pete Simpson says East Precinct officers were marking unoccupied vehicles with yellow tape to indicate the car had been checked. Officers on ATVs and in SUVs have contacted or marked nearly three dozen vehicles on I-205 and along surface streets.

Central Precinct officers, meanwhile, have responded to dozens of hazard calls, especially in the West Hills, Interstate 5, I-405 and Highway 26.

Officers also responded to welfare checks for homeless people, with roughly three dozen taken to warming shelters. Officers provided jackets to some of those who did not want to go to a shelter.

The major winter storm has dumped a foot of snow in many parts of Portland. It punctuates an unusually cold winter that has seen four people die of hypothermia.

The major snowstorm also led Amtrak to suspend southbound service between Seattle and Portland. No alternate transportation will be provided for the morning Amtrak Cascades service.

Meanwhile, those relying on Portland's light-rail system continue to face delays because of ice, downed trees and fallen power lines.  Shuttle buses are serving some stations.

At Portland International Airport, flight delays and cancelations were piling up as the snow continues to swirl. Check ahead before making the trip to the airport.

The Oregon Department of Transportation urged drivers to stay off the road, and motorists appeared to be heeding that message. Many roads were empty Wednesday morning.

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