The junction of Highways 6 and 8 in Gales Creek on February 24, 2021. Photo: Chas Hundley
Thanksgiving weekend is upon the United States, and the Oregon Department of Transportation is urging travelers to use caution during what is traditionally among the busiest travel weekends of the year.
AAA Oregon/Idaho forecasts that about 652,000 Oregonians will travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, Wednesday through Sunday, a number approaching 2019’s pre-pandemic levels and exceeding 2020’s muted Thanksgiving weekend travel numbers.
Add to that weather concerns in Oregon’s higher elevations and COVID-19 worries, and it can all be a bit stressful. Here are some tips from ODOT, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the Portland office of the National Weather Service, and AAA Oregon/Idaho to deal with this weekend’s travel travails.
ODOT says to watch for adverse weather
If you’re headed to a location that requires traveling through higher elevation areas, check the weather, traffic cameras, and road reports on tripcheck.com, ODOT says.
The Portland NWS said that 4 to 8 inches of snow was expected to fall in the Cascade Range around the 4,000 foot elevation mark Tuesday, and that could create dangerous driving conditions.
“Holiday travelers on Interstate 84 should expect rolling slowdowns Wednesday in both directions between Cascade Locks and Memaloose State Park, east of Mosier, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m,” ODOT said in a press release.
The highway department said that these slowdowns create 20 minute windows for crews to blast rock for the new 655-foot Mitchell Point Tunnel.
ODOT also noted that if snow falls, there could be delays in plowing due to a staffing shortage the agency is grappling with.
“This is a continuation of a trend we saw last year. We’re working hard to fill vacant positions and will shift resources as needed when we see significant snow on our roads,” ODOT said.
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The agency supplied the following travel tips for the weekend
–Know before you go. Visit com and find out conditions all along your route, start to finish.
–Remember that many Tripcheck cameras include temperature, elevation and other critical details about road conditions.
–Drive for conditions. Rain, snow, or extra traffic – slow down and give space for stopping time.
–Keep your vehicle in good operating shape, checking brakes, lights, tires and wipers regularly.
–Watch out for bicyclists and pedestrians. In wintry conditions, visibility drops.
–Pay attention to roadside message signs. They contain critical information about conditions on the road ahead.
–Use patience, wear your seat belt, pay attention to conditions and keep a sober driver behind the wheel to help ensure a safe arrival for holiday activities.
Also to watch out for are impaired drivers, and motorists won’t be the only ones looking for them.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office is among many law enforcement agencies beefing up DUII patrols this weekend.
“Throughout November, deputies will continue to provide enhanced DUII patrols, including the Thanksgiving holiday weekend,” WCSO said November 15.