Rain - what else? - heralded the second day of 2004 after the new year's surprise snowfall. But more white stuff could be on the way.

The "winter wonderland" image Thursday turned to ice overnight, but was mainly washed away by intermittent but heavy rain overnight and early this morning. The snow which blanketed much of the North Coast by 6 p.m. Thursday lingered today in rural inland areas like Knappa and Naselle, Wash., and northern parts of the Long Beach Peninsula. Astoria had a dusting around 5 a.m. today.

Despite the white blanket, the region avoided the worst effects of the storm, which deluged Portland and Salem with six inches of thick snow and caused multiple accidents and travel delays in the upper Willamette Valley. Chains were required for vehicles traveling the 300-mile stretch of Interstate-5 from Ashland to Portland Thursday afternoon, though the rare requirement was later lifted. Eastern Oregon, better prepared for low temperatures, was digging itself out today.

Locally, snow caused some problems. At around 12:20 a.m. today a 44-year-old Portland man lost control of his Infiniti Q while driving east on U.S. Highway 26 and his car went over the east embankment at Milepost 14, but he was not injured. The Oregon State Police had to assist a motorist who was stuck in the snow east of the Camp 18 restaurant on U.S. 26 at 3:20 p.m. Thursday.

Road conditions on U.S. 26 today continue to be hazardous, with chains or traction devices required on most of the highway. Oregon Department of Transportation reports snow flurries and packed snow on the roadway through Sunset Summit.

Employees at Camp 18 reported at 9 a.m. today that traffic was going through, but the roads are slushy and "a big mess."

Highway 26 near Elderberry Inn (Milepost 22) was reduced to one lane early this morning because a tree had fallen on the road. Also, a two-semi-truck accident near Sunset Summit at about 6 a.m. initially completely closed the highway and then reduced the highway to one lane for several hours. There were no injuries.

The National Weather Service forecast for the North Coast and Southwest Washington is for showers and isolated thunderstorms, with perhaps one inch more snow accumulating on high ground. Temperatures are expected to hover around 40 degrees today, with light winds.

Astoria, Cannon Beach, Tillamook, Long Beach and Naselle can expect more rain showers tonight with temperatures in the low-to mid-30s.

Snow showers, with an accumulation of up to two inches, could hit the region Saturday with temperatures dropping as low as 25 at night, forecasters say. Sunday will be warmer, even sunny, but more snow is possible. Freezing rain and stronger winds are expected Monday, with rain continuing to drench the coast through next week.

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