Travelers Stranded for Hours on Interstate 5 South of Eugene, With Some Sleeping In Vehicles

traffic jam i5
Traffic congestion on Interstate 5. Photo by Stephanie Yao Long/Staff for LC- The OregonianLC- The Oregonian

In a report from The Oregonian, severe winter conditions led to extensive traffic disruptions on Interstate 5, south of Eugene, Oregon, on Sunday and Monday. The harsh weather required vehicles to use chains, but many vehicles without proper equipment encountered difficulties, resulting in crashes and blockages on the interstate starting Sunday evening.

The situation worsened into Monday, creating significant delays, especially for northbound traffic. David House, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), explained that despite proactive measures such as increased de-icing and sanding, the storm's intensity made driving challenging. He noted a particular issue with commercial vehicles, like semi-trucks, not using chains, which when they spun out, caused significant traffic obstructions.

The conditions deteriorated to the point where drivers stopped on the lanes to put on chains, leading to such severe congestion that some motorists ended up sleeping in their vehicles. ODOT and Oregon State Police had to intervene to get traffic moving again. As the weather and traffic congestion persisted, Oregon State Police started issuing citations for drivers not using chains in mandatory areas.

Among those affected was Clare Lewis, who was returning from California, hoping to reach Portland by Monday afternoon for a cancer treatment appointment on Tuesday. Stuck around Cottage Grove, she faced dwindling supplies and concerns about running out of gas. Despite anticipating traffic delays, she did not expect the extent of the gridlock she encountered.

After a prolonged delay, Lewis managed to exit at Cottage Grove and reroute via Oregon 99. House advised avoiding travel on Tuesday, warning of the potential for getting stuck in the final wave of icy conditions. He emphasized the lack of alternate routes and the increased risk of traffic issues in such weather, stressing the necessity of using chains.

As a caution to our readers, it's imperative to stress the current hazardous conditions of the roads. Due to the severe winter weather, driving conditions have deteriorated significantly, making the roads perilously icy and unsafe. We strongly advise against any non-essential travel today. If your journey isn't absolutely necessary, please consider postponing it. The risk of accidents and getting stranded is high, and your safety is paramount. Let's prioritize well-being and avoid taking unnecessary risks in these treacherous driving conditions.