Dan Christensen waited at the bottom of an icy hill. He was worried.
Christensen, a TriMet bus driver whose route takes him from the Clackamas Town Center to Happy Valley, knew he’d need momentum to get to the top. The slope curved to the east, with freezing winds glazing the hill until it looked like glass.
Suddenly a fire truck zoomed past, cutting tracks through the crystalized sleet with its heavy-duty tire chains. It created a path for Christensen to follow.
Still, the hill “scared me,” Christensen said Thursday morning. Even with the bus’s drop-down tire chains deployed, it was “touch and go” all night.
Christensen, who’s been a bus driver since 2006, started his usual shift Wednesday afternoon and witnessed the snow and ice progress through the evening rush hour, trapping hundreds of drivers around the metro area.
Christensen weaved around spun-out cars and navigated past bunched-up buses while power outages blacked out the street lights. There were major gaps in service for buses and trains -- and frustrated riders, of course, Christensen said. He picked up a few people whose cars were stranded.
Despite the risk of getting stuck, Christensen remained committed to doing his job: getting people home safely. In this kind of weather, “the only safe bus is parked in the parking lot at the bus yard,” he said.
“There’s times that Sir Isaac Newton and his gravity is driving the bus more than you are,” he added.
The experienced bus driver made it through his route and shift, clocking out just before midnight. Christensen’s drive home from the TriMet bus lot in Southeast Portland ended up being the hardest part of the journey. He dug his own car out of a pile of snow using just a handheld ice scraper and then slowly made his way home.
Other drivers weren’t so fortunate.
Some posted on Twitter to say they’d been stuck overnight on Interstate 84 or Interstate 5, where traffic was at a standstill due to stuck cars and stalled semi-trucks.
Traffic cameras are showing progress and movement Thursday morning at 10 a.m., but I-84 westbound near the I-5 junction is still chaotic. And I-5 southbound near Fremont is backed up down to Taylor’s Ferry Road. Many of the cars on Interstate 205 near the Gateway Transit Center are also at a halt.
How bad is it out there? Here are a few examples from social media.
One woman on Twitter said it was an eight-hour drive Wednesday night from the airport to Beaverton.
Stuck on 84 W in Portland. Feeling as tho I will be here all night - they’ve shut the highways down and I haven’t moved in 3 hours. Car is off to conserve gas. I have extra water - will trade if anyone has pizza!?!? 😂😭🍕🙏🏼🚘 pic.twitter.com/Ky4DkzR2wj— Britt Carlson Oase (@brittcarlson) February 23, 2023
Some drivers turned their cars off to conserve fuel while waiting out the traffic chaos.
Hour 3 in the car and I feel like I’m going run out of gas given that my car just said “50 miles to empty” to which I would normally yell “mind your business” but again, hour 3 in the car. #pdxsnow #pdxtraffic pic.twitter.com/gcVrLeHDit— karol collymore (@karolcooks) February 23, 2023
Another driver said they were heading to Vancouver from Gresham but got stuck for 14 hours.
I’ve been on my way to vancouver from Gresham since 5:30pm yesterday. 14 hours. And I am STILL at a standstill with no way out.— delૐ (@delaneyybby) February 23, 2023
Got a crazy story about being stuck in the storm? Tell us: [email protected]; 503-221-6651; @savannaheadens
This story will be updated.
-- The Oregonian/OregonLive
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