Interstate I-84 is now closed both ways in the Gorge.
The reason? A major regional ice storm in the Cascades Passes, the Columbia Gorge and in portions of the Columbia Basin.
Freezing rain has resulted in several inches of ice on roadways, trees, and powerlines. Some pictures below show the story. First, several around I-90 provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Scenes in the Columbia Gorge were equally dramatic (here is one taken by Patrick Oldright outside the Vista House in the Columbia Gorge)
We started with a layer of subfreezing air east of the Cascade crest and an offshore directed pressure gradient (higher pressure to the east). This pressure difference pushed cold air into the Cascade passes and through the Columbia Gorge.
Then a warm, wet Pacific frontal system approached, producing an above freezing layer aloft and rain that fell into the cold layer near the surface (see schematic). Even when cooled below freezing the falling rain (comprised of supercooled water) did not freeze until it hit the ground.
The Columbia Gorge and Portland are well known for freezing rain, which is sometimes called the "Silver Thaw". Ditto for the Columbia Basin.
A map of the climatology of freezing rain over the U.S. below shows that eastern WA and the passes to its west experience freezing rain more frequently than any other region in the western U.S. (2-4 events a year on average). Freezing rain is
With the atmosphere warming above and the reduction in the offshore flow as the cold air is mixed out to our east, the threat of freezing rain is rapidly diminishing in the passes.