Snow above Banks January 1, 2017. photo: Chas Hundley

As families across the state gear up for Christmas and finalize travel plans, the Portland office of the National Weather Service is warning that snow and freezing temperatures are increasingly likely beginning Friday, Christmas Eve. 

The latest forecast shows a mix of rain and snow beginning Friday, December 24. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-30s, with wet roads. On the Highways 6 and 26 passes, conditions could worsen for motorists headed to or from the coast as snow levels drop to 1,100 feet Friday night. 

Christmas Day is expected to see snow levels drop to 800 feet, meaning some of the higher elevations in and around the region could start to see snow begin to stick. For everyone else, a mix of rain and snow is expected. Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing, with accumulation of around an inch of new snow possible.

From there, temperatures are expected to hover around or below freezing for the foreseeable future. 

Read forecasts for your area on the National Weather Service website.

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For those hitting the roads to travel around Christmas weekend, the Oregon Department of Transportation urged motorists to use caution. Highway 26 from the Timber Junction to Highway 47 is considered a snow zone, as is Highway 6 from the Timber junction to Jordan Creek, and motorists are currently required to carry chains or have traction tires. 

“The Willamette Valley, the mountains, the Columbia River Gorge and Central, Southern and Eastern Oregon all likely will see varying degrees of snow and freezing temperatures over the three-day holiday weekend and into the following week,” ODOT said in a press release.

The highway agency offer the following tips to prepare for travel in adverse winter conditions.  

–Know before you go. Visit tripcheck.com and see road conditions along your route, start to finish.

–Remember that many tripcheck.com cameras include temperature, elevation and other critical details about road conditions.

–Drive for conditions. If encountering rain, mud, snow, ice or extra traffic be sure to slow down and give extra space for stopping.

–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.

–Be patient, 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.

ODOT, facing staffing shortages that have hit the agency since at least last year, noted that their lower-than-usual staff numbers could slow their response times. 

“We may need a little more time to clear roads, whether it be snow or slides,” the agency said, saying that it continues work to fill vacant positions. 

Outlining the weather conditions expected, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue urged patience instead of heading into potentially dangerous road conditions for those traveling for the holidays. 

“It might be better to stay an extra day or two, to wait until road conditions improve. So be prepared to stay longer,” FGF&R said in a social media post. 

The Banks Fire District also noted the potential for snow and ice. 

“This weekend [Portland General Electric] encourages customers to prepare now for possible outages,” Banks Fire District spokesperson Mitch Ward said in a social media post. 

Information on building a power outage kit and other tips on handling a loss of power can be found on the PGE website. 

The Oregon Office of Emergency Management also provided a list of tips to stay safe during winter storms, which can be read here.