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April 17, 2014

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Rare snowstorm hammers W. Oregon, SW Washington

Updated Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 | 11:15 p.m.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Chilled and snow-battered residents of western Oregon and southwest Washington braced for a promised second punch from a rare and powerful snowstorm after the first installment dropped more than a foot of snow on parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Forecasters said a second low pressure system was expected to spread snow into northwest Oregon on Friday afternoon, possibly bringing another 6 to 12 inches of snow.

Adding to concerns about Friday's commute was freezing rain in the Eugene and Corvallis areas of the Willamette Valley and on the central Oregon coast, said Colby Neuman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Portland.

Temperatures in the low 20s and teens were forecast early Friday, Neuman said.

Thursday's storm left one person dead in a massive Interstate 5 pileup in southwest Washington, caused multiple other wrecks and closed schools and offices.

Many school districts in the region canceled Friday's classes as well.

The snowstorm also caused a string of multiple car crashes on I-5 near Albany, Ore., essentially closing the highway there for five hours, the Oregon Transportation Department said.

The last back-to-back snow event like this in the region hit in December 2008, Neuman said.

The big I-5 pileup that killed one person and injured others occurred across the Columbia River in Washington state's Clark County.

At least half a dozen tractor-trailers were involved in the collision on the snow-covered freeway, The Columbian reported.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Steve Schatzel said several people were trapped in the wreckage. One suffered injuries described as critical and two others suffered serious injuries.

Oregon State Police Lt. Steve Mitchell described a 25-vehicle pileup on I-5 near Albany as "pure chaos."

Traffic backed up for miles. Only minor injuries were reported.

Oregon's largest city, Portland, recorded 3 ½ inches of snow by Thursday evening. Cars slipped and slid as commuters left work early. Some good-hearted residents helped push vehicles that got stuck.

A school bus slid on ice and collided with a car Thursday afternoon in Aloha, west of Portland. Firefighters said one of the children on the bus was taken to a hospital with knee pain.

Snowfall totals as of Thursday night included 13 inches in the small town of Vernonia, Ore., northwest of Portland, and 10 inches in St. Helens, north of Portland along the Columbia River. Snow also fell along the Oregon coast; the community of Wheeler got 9 inches.

In the Willamette Valley south of Portland, Corvallis got 9.3 inches and Albany reported 7 ½ inches.

In the Columbia River Gorge that divides Oregon from Washington, snow was accented by 30-40 mph winds that gusted to 60 mph, Neuman said.

In southwest Washington, Ridgefield got 9 inches of snow, Woodland got 7 and Longview got 5.

The storm struck quickly Thursday morning, dumping snow on the Albany region and then spreading north.