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Rain, snow, wind make for tricky pre-holiday travel

By Barney Lerten
John Hendricks
Published On: Nov 18 2012 11:56:43 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 21 2012 12:09:29 PM CST
Santiam Pass ODOT

ODOT TripCheck

Chains or snow tires were required Wednesday morning for motorists traveling over snow-packed Santiam Pass

BEND, Ore. -

A stormy night over Central Oregon brought wind, rain and snow, followed by blue skies in Bend but tricky travel in the passes and other higher elevations as the Thanksgiving Eve travel period began.

Chains or snow tires were required for travelers over Santiam Pass, where 8 inches of new snow fell and more than a foot stood at roadside. A crash was reported near the summit around 7 a.m.

Roads were snow-covered as the day dawned from La Pine and Sisters to Highway 97 at Lava Butte, south of Bend. Some snow also fell on Bend's Awbrey Butte.

A La Pine resident said it was snowing extremely hard Wednesday morning, with a half-inch falling so far and extremely poor visibility.

A southwest Bend resident awoke to a crash around 8 a.m. outside their fence on Brookswood Boulevard. No ambulances apparently were needed, but with wet or icy roads around, Sarah Johnson urged, "Slow down everyone, and be safe!"

Mt. Bachelor repored that nearly 3 feet of snow had fallen at mid-mountain in the past three days, with nearly 2 feet at the base, including over a foot of snow in the 24 hours ending Wednesday morning.

Hoodoo also said it was "getting closer to opening" as planned on Friday, with a foot of new snow and a 21-inch depth by Wednesday morning.

The snow came just in time for Mt. Bachelor and thankful skiers and snowboarders who will get to work up their Thanksgiving appetite on the resort's opening day Thursday, the resort announced.

"We've got plenty to be thankful for this holiday season, with 12 inches of snow accumulating at the base of Mt. Bachelor in the past 24 hours and a mid-mountain base depth of 38 inches," the Tuesday announcement said.

As a result, they said, "Mt. Bachelor will be opening  for the winter season as of this Thursday, November 22nd!"

Many skiers and boarders around Central Oregon were excited to hear the news.

"The turkey usually isn't done until noon or 1, so getting in some early turns would be great," said Jeff Marsh.

"We've been out here kind of waiting for it, cross country and boot packing," said Renee Harkins. "We're just waiting for the mountain to open, so I'm pretty pumped to get out there on Thursday."

The rest of the announcement:

  • Initial lift operations will include Pine Marten Express, Sunshine Accelerator, and Skyliner Express from 9am to 4pm, with early season lift ticket pricing; $59 for Adults, $49 for Teens (13-18) and Seniors (65-69), and $36 for Youth (6-12) and 70+.
  • Terrain Park features will be available in the Pacific City park off Skyliner Express.   
  • New - Lift tickets, season pass pick-up, and all mountain services will be available in one convenient location within the 'Mountain Gateway' building in the West Village parking lot.
  • The Nordic Center will also open for the winter season on Thursday, November 22nd.
  • Tubing will also be available beginning Thursday through the Thanksgiving weekend. 

"The forecast is calling for more snowfall as the storm continues through Wednesday, while our operations crews prepare for a powder-filled opening day!  Check MtBachelor.com for updates, snow totals and additional information to prepare for the winter season."

But Central Oregon isn't done with windy weather, either. The NWS had a new wind advisory in place until 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Forecasters said the winds would increase Wednesday morning, peaking by early afternoon and diminishing toward sunset. They predicted southwest to west winds, sustained at 30-35 mph, with gusts of 45-50 mph.

The lights came back on early Tuesday for nearly 900 Pacific Power customers near Bend's Pilot Butte after Monday's intense windstorm.

Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt said the 863 customers in northeast Bend had power restored around 3:15 a.m.

Madras had one-third of an inch of rain in the 24 hours ending at 4 a.m. Tuesday -- a far cry from the nearly 2 inches recorded at the National Weather Service office in Portland. Sunriver reported 1.15 inches of precipitation and Pelton Dam nearly an inch.

At mid-morning, rain ended in Bend and a blue-sky sun break came, complete with a rainbow over the city, but showers continued.

The winds that gusted to near-hurricane force at higher elevations of the High Desert sent trees, branches and power lines snapping and tumbling Monday, sparking at a destructive house fire south of Bend.

Pacific Power had close to 2,200 Bend customers out of power at the peak of the day's winds, while Central Electric Cooperative reported 600 to 700 customers were out, mostly in an area between Tumalo and Sisters that lasted about 2 1/2 hours.

The highest wind gusts reported around the region included 51 mph at Madras, 60 mph at Lava Butte south of Bend and a 72 mph gust clocked at Pine Mountain east of Bend.

A nearly 100-foot Ponderosa pine tree fell onto a home at 60610 Tekampe Road and took down power lines with it, causing them to arc on the roof, said Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki.

"It looks like one or two sections of those trees fell down right into power lines and right into the house," said Derlacki

CEC crews were called out to turn off the power, and at first, due to the live lines, crews were not able to prevent the arcing wire from starting the roof and attic on fire.

Once the power was off, Derlacki said, crews were trying to put out the blaze but "were called back to a safe distance due to the high winds and the threat of (those winds) toppling the remaining trees that put the firefighters' safety at risk."

Fire crews stayed on scene but were only able to put water on the fire from a distance for a time.

Once the wind died down to a safe level, crews planned to re-enter the home and fully extinguish the fire.

Losses were estimated at $100,000 to the house. owned by Susan Skakel, and $20,000 to the contents.

A tree branch fell on a power line that eventually fell on Third Street near Yew Lane, forcing its closure near Wilson Avenue shortly after 1 p.m.

The winds toppled two trees on the Bend campus of Central Oregon Community College, one near Grandview Hall and another behind Pioneer Hall, prompting a call for caution on campus as grounds crew worked to clear the trouble.

Trees or lines were reported down across the area throughout the morning, including a 60- to 70-foot tree that fell on Harrington Loop in the Sisters area.

Near Cloverdale, power lines were left dangling high above the ground. Mike Mehring was headed down Goodrich Road when a downed power line slammed across his windshield.

"I just about got to this bridge, and all of the sudden I heard something -- a loud noise," said Mehring. "A wire had hit my windshield and my mirror."

The road was closed for several hours as crews worked to fix the line.

Problems multiplied in the early afternoon, with downed trees or lines knocking out the traffic lights at Bear Creek and Pettigrew roads, among other locations. Crews were scrambling to a variety of similar reports.

Strong wind uprooted a massive pine on Bear Creek Road in Bend around 1:30 p.m. The tree took down power lines and a transformer, knocking out power to much of the Eastside of Bend.

 "On the other side, it looks terrible -- there is a transformer laying there," said Ralph Griffen, who lives nearby. "It looks like there is stuff leaking out of the transformer on to the property. I'm not sure what that means."

Giffen had just finished building a shop near the towering pine.

"Well, I'm just happy it went towards the power and not towards my new shop," said Giffen.

A juniper tree fell across SE 15th Street north of Knott Road, while a tree was reported down onto a home on NW Ithaca Avenue.

Shortly before 2 p.m., traffic lights were reported out and traffic was backing up at the busy intersection of Highway 20 and NE 27th Street.

On KTVZ's Facebook page, Sisters-area resident Matt Cyrus also reported a power line down across Goodrich Road near Highway 126.

Ed Petersen said his Redmond house was "taking a beating," with the wind "trying as hard as it can to break the front door down." He said he "just peeled someone's mail off of my garage door (from) two blocks away."

At noon, the "ghost town" of Shaniko reported a 60 mph wind gust, while gusts into the 30-40 mph range or higher were common around the region -- Madras had a 44 mph gust at that hour, 45 mph at Lava Butte south of Bend and 46 mph at Suttle Lake.

An hour later, Madras Airport had a gust to 50 mph and it reached 53 mph at Suttle Lake.

A National Weather Service storm spotter south of Deschutes River Woods reported a 60 mph gust around 1:25 p.m.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning that began at 8 p.m. Sunday and was allowed to expire at 11 p.m. Monday as the winds slowly subsided (but the rain increased after nightfall).

Please share any info and photos at stories@ktvz.com.

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