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Snow still continuing to hamper freeway

The Associated Press

GRANTS PASS - A New Year's blizzard lingered in Oregon Friday, closing down stretches of interstate and knocking out power to thousands of residents.

Oregon transportation officials briefly closed down a 14-mile stretch of Interstate 5, from the Douglas-Josephine County line to Grants Pass, after heavy snow pounded the region. The stretch was reopened at 8:15 a.m.

"The snow was coming down faster than our plows could keep up," said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Jared Castle. "Many vehicles had spun out onto the pass, and we could not safely get vehicles through."

The closure is from milepost 80 to 66.

Castle said there is no immediate estimate on when that portion of highway might reopen. But he said that no one should plan to travel on the interstate Friday unless absolutely necessary.

Through the rest of the state, chains were required on all mountain passes, and on a 17-mile stretch of Interstate 84, between Hood River and Cascade Locks, according to ODOT spokesman Dave Thompson. Drivers without chains would not be allowed to cross the Siskiyou summit on the Oregon-California border.

In Coos Bay and Coquille, 24,730 customers lost power at about 2:30 a.m. Pacific Power spokeswoman Bekki Witt said residents could expect to have their power out at least until Saturday night.

Oregon Highway 38, which connects Reedsport to I-5, has been closed all night and remains closed due to downed trees and minor mud slides. Another highway closed through the night because of snow is Oregon 70, east of Klamath Falls. And Highway 140, east of Lakeview, is closed at the aptly named Blizzard Gap due to snow.

Police also said that highway 20 between Albany and Sweet Home would probably be closed all day because of a downed tree that had toppled some power lines.

Aside from that, Oregon State Police Lt. Dale Rutledge said he hadn't heard of any serious accidents or fatalities as a result of the snow covered roads.

A mix of rain and snow was forecast for Friday. Officials with the National Weather Service said an arctic air front could bring more snow to the state by Monday.