Rare white Christmas in Pacific Northwest causes car crashes

Motorists drive near Yelm, Wash., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. Snow, sleet and freezing rain is making holiday travel challenging in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho. The National Weather Service warned Portland Sunday afternoon that drivers should expect deteriorating road conditions through the day. (Steve Bloom/The Olympian via AP)

A person walks near the Capitol campus in Olympia, Wash., Sunday, Dec. 24,2017. Snow, sleet and freezing rain is making holiday travel challenging in Washington state, Oregon and Idaho. The National Weather Service warned Portland Sunday afternoon that drivers should expect deteriorating road conditions through the day. (Steve Bloom/The Olympian via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — It’s a good thing Santa travels by air. Much of the rainy Pacific Northwest got a rare white Christmas that left roadways treacherous.

Dozens of crashes were reported Sunday in and around Portland and Seattle, and slippery roadways led to some closures. The snow wasn’t particularly deep, only an inch or two, but it created havoc — especially on hills — when mixed with freezing rain.

The weather gradually warmed Monday, but the National Weather Service said roads remained slick.

The agency said it’s only the sixth time since 1884 that downtown Portland has had measurable snow on the ground on Dec. 25.

“Grab a cup of hot cocoa or coffee this morning, sit back and enjoy the rare sight … a white Christmas across Portland!” it said in a tweet.

A white Christmas is also unusual for Seattle, and drivers struggled with the conditions.

Michael Stevenson cringed as he watched cars inch or slide their way down a hill in Kenmore, a suburb north of Seattle, KOMO-TV reported.

Stevenson grabbed a shovel while other neighbors threw cat litter in the road to help with traction.

“We were coming home from QFC just up the street here,” Stevenson said Sunday, referring to the supermarket chain. “And we got behind a bunch of these cars. I saw it and I said, ‘We better get home and get my shovels out here and start helping some people.

“You can see the anger that comes from all of this. It’s just . it’s no fun,” he said.

The Washington State Patrol said a 36-year-old woman died Sunday when her car veered off a road near the city of Roy and hit a tree. Authorities believe the snow caused it.

A Northwest city more accustomed to snow — Boise, Idaho — got about 9 inches from a pair of weekend storms. The Idaho Statesman reported that there were dozens of crashes and slide-offs around the region, but no fatalities.

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