Outages, tree damage likely as Salem braces for Tuesday ice storm

Salem is bracing for the most severe ice storm since the February 2021 event that damaged over 1,000 trees and shut down the city for days.

The National Weather Service is forecasting ice buildup between a quarter-inch and a half-inch Tuesday night.

That’s less than the 0.8 inches of ice that piled up in February 2021. “Still, tomorrow is going to be a pretty significant ice storm,” according to Noah Alviz, a meteorologist with the Weather Service’s Portland office.

The agency has issued an ice storm warning for Salem and much of the Willamette Valley for Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Power outages and tree damage are likely, and travel is “strongly discouraged,” the warning said.

Some areas in the northern Willamette Valley and the Columbia River Gorge could see up to three-quarters of an inch of ice, according to Alviz.

That’s on top of the ice already on the ground following a weekend of freezing rain, sleet and snow.

The number of power outages Salem could see Tuesday will depend on trees falling and other powerline impacts due to ice. The area has so far avoided widespread power outages as tens of thousands of Portlanders have been without power due to heavy winds in recent days.

Motorists move carefully off the icy Center Street Bridge in downtown Salem on Monday, Jan. 15. (LES ZAITZ/Salem Reporter)

Storm prep

Salem neighborhoods were largely quiet Monday, and downtown was nearly deserted. A few people were going for walks and others pulling kids in sleds. 

Skies were sunny at 28 degrees Monday afternoon, and snow was still crusted in slick ice. “But if you need any supplies or groceries or anything to get you through a potential power outage, today would be the day since tomorrow, ice is going to lead to extremely dangerous travel conditions,” Alviz said.

Alviz recommended that Salem residents have non-perishable food, water, blankets, a flashlight and extra batteries on hand in their homes – and in their vehicles, if they “absolutely have to travel.”

People should also keep cell phone chargers and a backup battery in their homes, the Oregon Department of Emergency Management said in a news release.

The state agency said anyone who decides to travel should plan extra time and also carry phone chargers and warm clothes. The agency has a winter travel tips page.

The state Department of Transportation asked drivers to consider delaying any travel until later this week if possible.

“Even in areas where snow and ice began to melt in the daytime, overnight lows are expected to refreeze them on Monday and Tuesday nights. If you must travel, carry chains – even if you have traction tires or four-wheel-drive,”state officials said in a news release. “Crews are plowing 24/7 and using de-icer by the hundreds of thousands of pounds, as well as sanding packed ice and snow on the roads. However, the amount of ice and extremely low temperatures limit the effectiveness of these tools – especially for vehicles without chains.

To avoid pipes freezing, people should leave their cabinet doors open under sinks to let warm air flow in. Alviz also said people should leave their faucets lightly dripping.

Try to stay clear of power lines, and watch for snow and ice that may fall off roofs as it starts to melt, he said.

Ice surrounds Fork Forty Food Hall in downtown Salem the morning of Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 (Rebekah Willhite/Special to Salem Reporter)


The Weather Service is forecasting a low around 15 degrees Monday night, and winds between 3 and 7 miles per hour.

Freezing rain is expected after 10 a.m. Tuesday, with light winds and a high near 29 degrees. Ice buildup between 0.1 and 0.3 of an inch is possible.

Winds will speed up to between 7 and 14 miles per hour Tuesday night with gusts as high as 20 miles per hour. New ice buildup of around 0.1 inch is possible.

On Wednesday, temperatures could rise to around 42 degrees by 5 a.m. A high near 47 is expected, with winds around 18 miles per hour and gusts as high as 28 miles per hour.

“We could potentially start to see thawing of snow and ice come Wednesday onward and it looks like we follow that warming trend into the rest of the week,” Alviz said.

A low around 41 degrees and winds between 6 and 10 miles per hour are expected Wednesday night.

Rain is forecasted for Salem the rest of the week.

A motorist moves along snowy State Street in downtown Salem on Monday, Jan. 15. (LES ZAITZ/Salem Reporter)


The state Public Utility Commission is expecting more power outages due to high winds and ice.

That could also lead to slower cell networks or areas without service, as Salem saw during the 2021 ice storm.

“Cell tower outages challenge communications for cell phone service and the internet service may be impacted by communication fiber and electric outages,” the Emergency Management Department said in a news release. “Use a battery-operated radio to listen to public broadcast stations for weather and situation updates. While utility repair crews are out working to restore power, outages are widespread and may not be back up for some time.”

Report an outage by contacting your electric utility service provider – 800-544-1795 for Portland General Electric, 877-508-5088 for Pacific Power, or 503-362-3601 for Salem Electric. If you’re not sure which utility serves your area, visit the state’s Find Your Utility page.

“Use flashlights or battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. Do not use candles or other potential fire hazards,” the Emergency Management department said. “Turn off lights and unplug electric appliances except for the refrigerator and freezer to help avoid a surge to the system when service is restored. After turning off all the lights, turn one light on to know when power has been restored.”

Those who need to evacuate don’t need to shut off their natural gas. 

“If your natural gas appliances do not operate properly once electricity is restored, call your natural gas service provider. If natural gas service is shut off, do not turn it back on yourself. Call your natural gas service provider to restore service. If you smell natural gas, evacuate immediately and call 911,” the agency said.

A no swimming sign by Pringle Creek central Salem is surrounded by ice on Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 (Rebekah Willhite/Special to Salem Reporter)


All city of Salem in-person services and offices are closed Tuesday, including the Salem Public Library, Center 50+ and Salem Municipal Airport. Meals on Wheels will not deliver on Tuesday. The library is taking customer calls from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 503-588-6315, and Center 50+ can be reached by email at [email protected].

The Salem Municipal Court is closed Tuesday. People with a case before the court scheduled for Tuesday should call 503-588-6146 and select 5 for staff, or email [email protected] after Jan. 17 to reschedule.

All Salem-Keizer School District schools and offices are closed, and school activities and programs are canceled, including the online EDGE program.

All Chemeketa Community College campuses and centers are closed Tuesday, and college classes and programs canceled.

Willamette University’s campus is closed and classes are canceled Tuesday.

State offices in the Salem and Portland metro areas are closed Tuesday, and remote and hybrid workers will work regular hours. The announcement does not apply to legislative offices or courts.

The Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency’s Head Start preschool programs in the Salem area are closed Tuesday. All Salem Child Development Center programs are also closed.

All Willamette Education Service District sites are closed, including preschool programs and the Willamette Career Academy in Salem.

The Willamette Heritage Center is closed Tuesday.

The Gilbert House Children’s Museum is also closed Tuesday.

A fire hydrant stands out on an icy downtown street the morning of Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 (Rebekah Willhite/Special to Salem Reporter)

Government services

The Salem Police Department’s non-emergency line is 503-588-6123.

People can also report roadway, water or sewer concerns to Salem Public Works dispatchers at 503-588-6311.

Salem’s traffic cameras remain offline as of Monday afternoon due to “an on-going communications and switching problem within the City’s fiber optic communications network,” said city spokesman Trevor Smith in an email to Salem Reporter.

The traffic cameras weren’t updating images properly, which the city has had intermittent issues with since November. This weekend, the city worked with ODOT to address the issue and replaced the incorrect images with a technical difficulties graphic, Smith said. 

“We apologize to the community for not having this resource available when needed this weekend. We are thankful to the residents of Salem for their help during this storm. The majority of the City took the weather alert seriously and avoided travel that could have led to more injuries and calls for service,” he said. 

Updated snow routes around Salem can be found on a city map.

Check road conditions throughout the state on or by dialing 511.

OneRain provides weather information for Salem up to the minute.

People can find information about local snow and weather responses by the city and Marion County online. 

You can also sign up to receive local emergency alerts at

Remnants of snow lace a grill in downtown Salem on Monday, Jan. 15. The National Weather Service forecasts a daylong ice storm on Tuesday, Jan. 16. (LES ZAITZ/Salem Reporter)

Warming centers

Many Salemites have been checking into warming centers, and services have an “urgent need” for volunteers, according to the city

The Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency served 120 people Saturday night, according to Executive Director Jimmy Jones. 

“Finding volunteers with this kind of snow and ice is always tough. When folks cannot drive to work or volunteer, that always makes our labor needs tighter. We need the community to volunteer in times like these so that we can fully staff through the evening,” Jones said.

To volunteer, email Don Dobbs at [email protected]. Volunteers check guests in and out of shelters, provide food and beverages in their hospitality areas and assist with keeping the facilities clean. 

Overnight warming shelters open when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or below. Salem First Presbyterian Church, 770 Chemeketa St. N.E., and Seed of Faith Ministries, 1248 Winter Street N.E., both operate such shelters when there is freezing weather.

Check the Community Action website for updated information about shelters.

People can also find open warming centers by dialing 211 or visiting 211 can also provide and coordinate transportation to and from warming centers. 

“If you can, check on your neighbors who may need assistance and consider volunteering at a warming center,” the Emergency Management Department said in its statement.

Managing Editor Rachel Alexander and Reporter Abbey McDonald contributed reporting.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.