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ODOT asks travelers to be patient and use caution this holiday season

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Kristyna Wentz-Graff
/
OPB
Snow makes for tricky driving on I-84 west outside La Grande, Oregon, earlier this month. A shortage of snow plow drivers could mean delays on roadways as the forecast calls for snow over the holidays. Officials are urging people to drive with extra caution and be prepared with chains and traction tires.

Severe winter weather in the mountain passes and lower elevations combined with staffing shortages at the state’s transportation department could pose problems for travelers.

Oregon Department of Transportation officials are reminding travelers to use extra caution this week and through the holiday weekend as they visit family and friends.

The National Weather Service has forecasted snow for much of Oregon, beginning Friday night. Snow is expected to pick up beginning Sunday for parts of the Portland metro and through the Interstate 5 corridor as far south as Ashland.

Areas east of the Cascades, including communities along U.S. Route 97 such as Klamath Falls and Bend, could continue to see snow, and Oregonians crossing the mountain passes should certainly expect to run into significant amounts of snow and ice.
“We know a lot of people have travel plans this weekend. What we really want to encourage drivers to do is allow themselves extra time and to be patient,” said Katherine Benenati, an ODOT spokesperson.

According to Benenati, the labor shortage being felt nationwide is also impacting ODOT. While the state is doing what it can to shift resources to areas that could see problems from winter weather, ODOT is asking travelers to be patient if they don’t see the level of service they’ve come to expect.

“Please keep that in mind. If you can stay home this winter when the weather is bad, stay home,” Benenati said.

For those whose travel plans are set in stone, ODOT has issued its annual winter driving guide available on its website.

It suggests using traction tires or carrying chains, increasing stopping distances when snow and ice are present, and utilizing the state’s Trip Check site to see live updates of road conditions and closures, as well as web cams giving travelers a glimpse at current conditions and traffic.

Benenati noted that some in-car GPS systems don’t have the capability of being updated in real time, so make sure you check your route ahead of time to ensure there aren’t any closures affecting your drive.

“Remember all those safety tips and make sure you plan out your trip,” she said.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting