HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- High winds were already blowing in the Columbia River Gorge Thursday, creating chilly conditions that could potentially develop into freezing rain by Thursday night and Friday morning, meteorologists warned.
Winds gusts hit 101 mph in the western Gorge around 2 p.m. They were expected to hit at least 30 mph in the Portland area, according to KGW Meteorologist Nick Allard, with significant gusts blowing pedestrians sideways in NE Portland early in the afternoon. KGW Reporter Keely Chalmers was literally blown over while shooting a stand-up for her report on the winds.
Video: Reporter knocked over
Images: Bowled over by Wind
More: Northwest winds map
“I think overall, most areas will be just above freezing Thursday night and early Friday. However, with pockets of temperatures around the freezing mark, some freezing rain is possible late Thursday night and early Friday morning,” he explained. “Most of the freezing rain will stick in the Gorge, especially around Hood River, and possibly even to Cascades Locks with some freezing rain and sleet possible there.” More: Gorge forecast | 7-day forecast | KGW weather coverage
State: 'Prepared for anything'
The Oregon Department of Transportation was not taking any chances after the late December surprise storm that blanketed Portland in five inches of snow, snarling interstates, stranding vehicles and leaving many frustrated and stuck in the cold.
"We don't want to take any chances after what happened," said ODOT regional manager Jason Tell. Gorge and eastern metro residents were urged to fill up their gas tanks in the event they were stranded. For its part, the state said extra crews would be out along Interstate 84, Hwy 26 and elsewhere, Tell said.
The National Weather Service issued a Special Weather Statement warning of possible freezing rain and sleet from Thursday night through Saturday morning. However, forecasters left themselves wiggle room in case the weather turned, saying "there is still a great bit of uncertainty as to how low temperatures will fall while the precipitation occurs."
KGW forecasters predicted heavy rain through most of the weekend but above-freezing temperatures throughout Portland excepting the Gorge.