Willamette Valley News, Wednesday 1/5 – Several Vehicle Crashes Around Region Due to Weather, ODOT Warns About Driving Conditions

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Flood Watch in effect from January 6, 04:00 AM PST until January 7, 06:00 PM PST

Today– Rain. High near 50. Southeast wind 3 to 5 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Thursday– Rain. High near 52. South southwest wind 8 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Friday– Rain. High near 49. South southwest wind 8 to 10 mph becoming west northwest in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Saturday– Partly sunny, with a high near 47.

Sunday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 47.

Crews work to reopen Cascade mountain highways  

Crews are working to get three high Cascade highways reopened to traffic later today. Portions of Oregon 138E, 230 and 62 closed last night due to severe weather. 

As of 11 a.m. today:

-OR 138E closure moved from Glide (MP 16) to Toketee (MP 61). OR 138E from Toketee to the intersection with U.S. 97 is closed (MP 61-100).

-All of OR 230 remains closed.

-OR 62 remains closed from Prospect north to the intersection with OR 230 (MP 46-65).

Three ODOT snow blowers are cutting paths through the snow on the hardest hit areas of the highways, creating room for safe vehicle travel. Some areas received up to four feet of snow yesterday. More snow is forecast today, although not as much. 

Oregon Department of Forestry and contract crews are also in the area, cutting snow-laden branches and trees leaning over the roads, and assisting ODOT to remove fallen branches and trees.

Depending on weather, all or some sections of the highways may be open later today. 

Be prepared for severe winter travel in Cascade mountain passes. Take extra time and slow down. Carry chains, winter weather clothing, extra food and water.  ODOT: SW Oregon

Fatal Crash on Interstate 5 near Albany

On Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at approximately 1:50 AM, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a two-vehicle crash on Interstate 5 near milepost 220. 

Preliminary investigation revealed a southbound Chrysler PT Cruiser, operated by Michael Elliott (79) of Sublimity, collided with a Volvo semi-tractor that was being towed. The Chevrolet tow truck, operated by Walker Farnham (26) of Eugene, is owned by A+ Towing. 

Elliot was transported by ambulance to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis where he was later pronounced deceased. Farnham was uninjured. 

Interstate 5 remained open to traffic.  OSP was assisted by Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Albany Medics, Halsey Rescue. Oregon State Police 

Multi-Vehicle Crash on Hwy 126E

The Springfield Police Department along with Eugene-Springfield Fire Dept. are handling a motor-vehicle accident involving multiple cars on Hwy 126 eastbound, east of Mohawk Boulevard, SPD said Tuesday night.

 Vehicle Crash In Harrisburg

Law enforcement responded to a rollover crash involving two cars in Harrisburg Wednesday morning.

Oregon State Police said the crash happened at 6:45 a.m. at the intersection of Highway 99 East and Powerline Road. 

When officials arrived, one of the cars was found upside down on the side of the southbound lane of Highway 99 East. The other car was found upright and on the side of the northbound lane of Highway 99 East.

Both lanes on the highway are now open. 

No injuries have been confirmed at this time. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Cottage Grove Provides Free Sand And Bags Due To Flooding

Cottage Grove and other parts of Western Oregon face a Flood Watch this week. The City of Cottage Grove took action, setting up a sandbag station. All you need is your shovel.

Free sandbags (and the sand with which to fill them) are available on 12th Street just north of W. Main St. (near the dog park and Dari-Mart). Be sure to bring a shovel (or other sand-scooping implement of your choice)

Wreck On I-5 Near Sutherlin Due To Heavy Rains

Heavy rain contributed to a wreck on Interstate 5 about two miles south of Sutherlin on Monday.

A report from Oregon State Police said at about 10:45 a.m. the driver was headed southbound and was changing lanes when he hydroplaned in the rain and went out of control. The vehicle destroyed about 150 feet of Oregon Department of Transportation wire rail and 20 posts in the median.

The driver was cited for driving while suspended and for driving uninsured. He was given a warning for driving too fast for the conditions. The driver and his passengers were not injured.

ODOT Warns Of Hydroplane Risks Due to Heavy Rains

The Oregon Department of Transportation is warning motorists to be aware of the risk of hydroplaning during rainy weather.

“One of the things that drivers need to remember is, especially as we have heavy rain and even in that transition between snow and the melting snowpack and rain, is to slow down, drive to those conditions,” said ODOT spokesman, Gary Leaming.

He noted that serious hydroplaning incidents are generally always due to speed.

“Many times we see people at high speed, they will lose traction and they go off the road,” he said.

He said the areas where the valley sees the biggest number of incidents due to hydroplaning is the I-5 over the overpasses at Skiskiyou and near Hayes Summit.

“You will see some water that sheets across the road at some places, we do the best that we can to keep that geometry such that rain sheets of,” he said. “But many times we will see drivers hitting that sheet of water and lose traction.”

He warned that the speed limit is not always safe for conditions. He noted that increasing following and stopping distance and decreasing speed is the best thing you can do to avoid hydroplaning.

It is also important to make sure your tires have enough traction and if you do start to hydroplane, take your foot off the gas and get a good grip on the steering wheel so you can regain control after you come out of the hydroplane.

Oregon reports 4,540 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 44 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — There are 44 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,710, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

OHA reported 4,540 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 435,453.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (8), Benton (102), Clackamas (652), Clatsop (38), Columbia (34), Coos (3), Crook (59), Curry (4), Deschutes (280), Douglas (54), Gilliam (8), Grant (6), Harney (4), Jackson (132), Jefferson (21), Josephine (55), Klamath (86), Lake (6), Lane (443), Lincoln (13), Linn (102), Malheur (38), Marion (464), Morrow (6), Multnomah (786), Polk (123), Sherman (7), Tillamook (17), Umatilla (109), Union (29), Wallowa (10), Wasco (30), Washington (610), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (200).

On Monday, Oregon reported the largest single-day total of newly identified cases reported to public health, with 3,534 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases. Now that Oregon is facing a surge of new cases caused by the omicron variant, tests once again are becoming harder to come by.

Based on responses on Twitter, Oregonians’ recent experiences with getting tested for COVID-19 varied greatly, depending on where respondents were.

But one thing people seemed to agree on: at-home tests are hard to come by, as they’re flying off shelves and are sold out at many stores. Some people said that getting tested at a testing site was easy and accessible, but an overwhelming majority of the 50 Twitter responses reported appointments booked up for several days, long wait times at walk-up test sites, and delays in getting testing results.

Kevin Mealy. spokesperson for the Oregon Nurses Association. says health care workers have already noticed the effects of the surge on testing.

“What we know is that there’s a lack of access to tests, there’s long lines for tests, there’s long waits on the back end processing all those tests,” Mealy said.

Mealy’s concerned that if people face difficulties accessing tests, they might choose to forgo testing. He said that reluctance would cause problems as health care workers try to prevent people from spreading COVID.

“We need to make that process simple and effective,” Mealy said. “And long waits prevent people from going back, or from trying again in two weeks when they have another exposure.”

But Mealy says even if people get tested, if results take a long time, they are less helpful as the window to act and prevent spread closes.

“If we can’t get people actionable information quickly, we run the risk of losing them and they won’t take the extra steps they might need to isolate or quarantine or mask,” Mealy said.

He says even for health care workers, there’s a concern that tests will be harder to come by, with lines to get tested getting longer, and the time to get results getting further delayed.

“These folks who work with potential COVID-19 patients every day, always need access to testing,” He said. “So that need has never changed, but as the number of cases in the community and coming into the hospital doors increase, that means more health care workers need testing so they can make sure that they’re safe to practice as well.”

The Oregon Health Authority was unable to provide comment for this story, with officials saying health experts were busy. OHA did announce last week that Oregon has made its largest order yet of COVID-19 tests. The state plans to offer those kits to people around the state for free so they can find out, at home, if they are carrying the virus, and take steps to prevent its spread.

Oregon Health Authority placed an order Dec. 30 with iHealth Labs for 12 million of its COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Tests that can be performed at home. Results from those tests are available in 15 minutes.

The agency said it does not have the capacity to individually send out tests, so it will prioritize distribution to local public health departments, Tribes, agriculture workers, early learning settings, K-12 schools, health care workers, shelters, and community-based organizations.

The Oregon Health Authority recommends testing if you have symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of your vaccination status, according to their website.

Fully vaccinated people should be tested within five to seven days of exposure. People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested when they find out they are a close contact, and if their test result is negative, they should get tested again five to seven days after exposure or if symptoms develop.

OHA adds, you should stay home and away from others while you wait for the results of your COVID-19 test.

Mealy says the nurses association has been supportive of national efforts to get affordable at-home tests available to people so they can test early after exposure or symptoms.

“That’s always the goal of testing,” Mealy said. “It isn’t just to get a result in a checkbox, it’s to give you early information so that you can protect others and stop the spread.”

Mealy believes additional staffing at testing sites and processing centers, especially during the surge, would be the best option for reducing wait times. He hopes that this is something that health authorities will act on, as more people seek testing.

“We don’t want to lose people who are taking action quickly to stop the spread,” Mealy said. ” They are some of our best allies in ensuring that this next COVID surge is less than the highest highs that have been projected.”

The Oregon Health Authority has an online tool for finding testing in your area.

ODOT Issues Warnings to Be Ready for Road Delays with Winter Weather Continuing

Travelers everywhere in Oregon should prepare as dangerous winter weather persists this week making road conditions treacherous.

Around the state cars and trucks have found themselves stuck by winter weather and in need of a basic emergency kit. Slides, snow, high water and trees can all block roads. If traveling during this stormy season be ready for a long delay by keeping handy:

  • Chains
  • Flashlight
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Food and water
  • Flares
  • Tools
  • Maps
  • Blankets
  • Extra clothes
  • First aid kit
  • Ice scraper
An emergency travel kit used by an ODOT crew member during winter travel. (Image courtesy of ODOT)

The forecast for the next few days around the state offers little relief. Expect snow in the higher elevations, closing some roads and slowing others, and rain in the lower elevations, already saturated.

Oregon Department of Transportation crews are working to keep the roads clear and safe and are encouraging travelers to remember best safety practices. Near the top of the list is the importance of observing highway signs. Travelers who find themselves stranded after recklessly crossing highway barricades may find rescue slow to arrive.

While the Ontario area has been warming up and seeing mostly a light rain and snow mix, which is expected to continue through Friday, other areas of eastern Oregon are getting hammered with snow levels that have caused closures of many state and county roads.

(Image courtesy of ODOT)

While most state routes are currently open, OR334 which is west of Athena in Umatilla County will remain closed for the next few days, according to a news release late Tuesday night from Oregon Department of Transportation. The reason: the roads have been drifted over with 6 to 8 feet of snow. As such, crews are using a snow blower and other equipment, “but it’s a slow process,” which is expected to continue for the next few days.

Other state roadways, including Interstate 84 have stretches of fresh or packed snow, and motorists are urged to be prepared for long delays in the event of a closure, which could happen at anytime, according to ODOT. Road closures can be necessary in the event of slides, snow, high water and fallen trees.

With so many motorists stranded by winter weather around the state in recent days, and winter weather expected to continue to make “road conditions treacherous,” ODOT officials urge motorists to carry a basic emergency kit. Recommended items in the kit include chains, flashlight, cell phone and charger, food and water, flares, tools, maps, blankets, extra clothes, a first aid kit and an ice scraper.

Motorists are also reminded to observe highway signs, including closures and to stay off closed roads.

Fatal Crash on Hwy 101-Coos County

On Tuesday, January 4, 2022 at approximately 10:58 PM, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a vehicle vs. pedestrian crash on Highway 101 near milepost 239. 

Preliminary investigation revealed a southbound Toyota 4Runner, operated by a 17-year-old of Coos Bay, struck a pedestrian that was crossing the roadway. Weather and low visibility are being investigated as contributing factors. 

The pedestrian sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. The name will be release when appropriate. 

The southbound lanes of Hwy 101 were closed for several hours. OSP was assisted by Coos Bay Fire and Rescue, Coos Bay Police, Coos County Sheriff’s Office and ODOT. Oregon State Police 

Oregon And Washington Facing Severe Blood Shortage

Blood service organizations like the American Red Cross and Bloodworks Northwest have called on the public for help, as the region reaches unprecedented blood shortage levels.

“There is truly an unprecedented, prolonged national blood shortage,” said Bloodworks Northwest Executive Vice President of Blood Services, Vicki Finson . “I would call it a crisis.”Blood shortage: Red Cross in need of donors”

Finson said the dire, pre-existing need for donors was exacerbated by recent inclement weather, staff shortages, and the Omicron variant surge. “Locally, as we speak right now, we have less than 50% of a one-day supply of blood,” Finson explained.

American Red Cross Regional Biomedical Services Support Manager for the Pacific Northwest Region, Mack Fitz-Gerald says that road closures caused by the winter storms have forced the organization to close blood drives and cancel blood transport to local hospitals in need.

“In the last two weeks alone, the Red Cross in our Pacific Northwest region has seen about 1,000 units lost,” said Fitz-Gerald. “That is critical to us. That is 3,000 potential lives that have been affected. And the only way we can make that better is to try and get the donors in the door now to help fulfill that need.”

He added, “To most people 1000 units doesn’t sound like much, but to us it is detrimental. It’s a huge loss. When we’re already impacted by COVID, and the normal deficit as it is, this is really devastating.”

Although, Bloodworks Northwest and The American Red Cross both claim to be experiencing ongoing staff shortages, the organizations say they have enough staff to meet the rise in demand and service incoming donors.

“We do have adequate staff to be collecting way more blood than we are right now. But it is impacting our ability to set up pop-ups,” Finson stated. “I don’t think anyone has gone without a transfusion, but I know there have been delays.”

According to Fitz-Gerald, the severe lack of blood donations comes down to a matter of life and death.

“You don’t want to use the word death, but that’s exactly what it is,” he explained. “The blood product services and platelets go to the hospitals for a reason, whether it be for surgeries or other life saving issues.”

Fitz-Gerald continued, “So, if we’re not getting it [blood] there, and patients are postponing surgeries or not having procedures done, that could have a detrimental impact on those individual’s lives.”

Bloodworks Northwest currently has all centers open . Blood donations can be scheduled online and are available by appointment only.

Finson said, sometimes appointments go quickly — but that doesn’t mean the need has been met. She recommends making an appointment for a later time, if possible.

“You might try to make an appointment and not find something and think, ‘Oh gosh, they don’t need me.’ Yes we do!” Exclaimed Finson. “We draw blood 364 days of the year, patients are transfused 365 days. This is ongoing, it’s forever, and everyday. So don’t get discouraged. Whenever you donate, you’re helping.”

The American Red Cross is accepting blood donor appointments online , through their app , and over the phone at: 1-800-398-7888.

“Having these shortages and patients not be able to have their lives saved due to the blood not being there is a huge problem right now.” Fitz-Gerald said. “The number one reason why people don’t donate is because they weren’t asked. So we just need to put the ask out there. We desperately need it, the patients need it.”

E. Coli Outbreak Linked To Salads Sold At Kroger Stores Includes Cases In Oregon And Washington

The CDC’s third foodborne illness outbreak in the last month, an E. coli outbreak, traces to organic packaged salads sold under the store brands of the Kroger and Giant Eagle chains.

Here’s what you need to know, from the CDC’s Dec. 30 update:

So far, 13 people have been sickened, four of whom are hospitalized, across six states: Washington (seven), Alaska (two), California, Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon (one each). No deaths have been reported.

Packaged salads involved: Simple Truth Organic Power Greens, sold at stores in the Kroger chain (Kroger, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, QFC and others), and Nature’s Basket Organic Power Greens, sold at stores in the Giant Eagle chain. Six of the people at the Simple Truth greens and one ate the Nature’s Basket greens.

No recall has been issued for either product, although the CDC is advising if you have the packaged salads with a “best by” date of Dec. 20, 2021, toss them.

Investigators are looking into other brands possibly involved. It’s not uncommon for a food producer to make the same product for numerous brands, sometimes name brands and store brands.

Some symptoms of E. coli: Anywhere from one to 10 days after eating the bacteria, but usually three or four days, high fever, stomachaches, vomiting and diarrhea can start. The diarrhea can get bloody. The worst symptom is hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure that can make E. coli deadly.

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A 17-year-old was reported missing in Salem and detectives say the teen might be the victim of an online catfishing scheme.

Ezra Mayhugh, 17, was last seen on October 15, 2021 after being dropped off in downtown Salem by a friend, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. He was reported as a runaway the following day when he did not return home.

Investigators say he might be in Washington or California. They hope to reunite Ezra safely with family members.

He’s described as about 5-foot 11-inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes.

If you have had contact with Mayhugh since October 15 or have other helpful information on his whereabouts, the sheriff’s office asks you to contact Detective M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808 or to submit a tip by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.

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