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High Desert thawing after two sub-zero nights

By Barney Lerten
Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:52:25 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 09 2013 04:23:46 PM CST
Cold La Pine Mike Swift

Mike Swift

While some digital thermometers gave up, mechanical ones like La Pine resident Mike Swift's showed the frigid -32 cold readings early Sunday

BEND, Ore. -

A second straight night of below-zero temperatures left the High Desert in deep-freeze mode late Sunday and early Monday -- though a wee bit warmer -- with the promise of warmer days to come in the new work week.

And indeed, Bend had reached 27 degrees by mid-afternoon Monday, relatively "balmy" but also threatening to start thawing frozen (or broken) pipes, with whatever outcome that could bring for more homeowners and businesses after a string of water-flow alarms and flooding in some cases.

Bend Airport was back down to -8 by 11 p.m. Sunday, La Pine was down to -11 and Redmond Airport was at -10. Powell Butte was at -3, as was Prineville Airport, while Camp Sherman was at -5, Warm Springs was -6, Sunriver Airport was at -7 and Sisters Airport at -8.

Bend Airport reached its overnight low of -9 around 1:15 a.m. Monday and slowly climbed from there, reaching zero again before daybreak and 1 degree by 7:15 a.m.

Redmond Airport reached it's low Sunday night of -10 just before 11 a.m. and also was back up to 1 degree shortly before 7 a.m. -- not warm by any means, but far "warmer" than the -27 recorded the previous night.

A La Pine-area viewer reported a -26 reading Monday morning - very, very cold, but not as cold as the -32 recorded Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service said Monday's Madras low of -15 smashed the old mark for Dec. 9 of -4, set in 2009.

Record frigid temperatures had sent thermometers plummeting and pipes bursting across the High Desert late Saturday and early Sunday, though forecasters promised a warm-up to more seasonable readings over the next few days.

La Pine officially had the coldest reading in the region at minus-32 degrees early Sunday, but Redmond Airport wasn't far behind at -27 and Bend dropped to -22.

Other reports from viewers: Robert Russell recorded a -23.6 in downtown Madras, and Candace Theberge who lives "off the grid" east of Bend, at the base of Pine Mountain, said it plunged to -36. A Three Rivers resident said it dropped to -31, while a weather spotter northwest of Tumalo also reported a -36 reading.

The National Weather Service reported the wind chill reached -37 at Redmond Airport early Sunday and -31 at Bend Airport. Madras also had the same -31 wind chill reading.

Steve Pierce of Northwest Weather Consultants said the automated reporting station at Horse Ridge, off Hwy. 20 east of Bend, dropped to the state's low -- 41-below -- and Christmas Valley wasn't far behind at -39. Lakeview's -27 reading was an all-time record for that city, smashing the old mark of -22 set back in February 1933 and matched in January 1937.

West of the Cascades, Eugene dropped to -10, two degrees shy of the all-time record for Eugene, set on the same date back in 1972. Salem plunged to 8 degrees, Vancouver, Wash. to a record 9, Portland International Airport to 12 degrees and 13 degrees at Astoria.

Forecasters said a warmer air mass aloft should start to warm surface temperatures over the next few days, though the snow cover over much of Eastern Oregon "will make it a slow process."

Deschutes County 911 dispatchers reported plenty of water-flow alarms as pipes burst, a problem only expected to worsen as frozen pipes thaw in the slow warm-up.

By 7 p.m. Saturday, Redmond already had dropped to -12 degrees, Madras Airport to -11 and Bend Airport to -9. Camp Sherman was at -6, La Pine at -7 and Sisters Airport at -8. Bend dipped to -11 during the next hour before 'rising' to -report 9 at 8 p.m. -- but Redmond had dropped to -14 by then and Prineville Airport to -10, while Sisters was at -11. Bend Airport dropped to -15 at 9:35 p.m.

By 10:30 p.m. Saturday, it was -17 degrees at Bend Airport -- with a -32 wind chill.

The bitter cold snapped -- by far -- Bend's Dec. 7 record low of -5, set back in 1956, but it did not break Bend's record for a cold December night -- of -24, set back on Dec. 10 and 11 in 1972. Redmond Airport got even colder that month -- a -28 reading on Dec. 8, 1972.

Several people reported their local sub-zero readings on our Facebook page Saturday night, including Suzie Crews' report of -15 in Redmond, Trita Topelt reporting -15 in Prineville and a whopping -23 in La Pine, according to Brittany Bevel.

Jaime Hebard said it had plunged to -14 in Madras by 8:30 p.m., while Dawnita Linn said it was -22 in her northeast Redmond backyard. A -16 reading was reported by Crooked River Ranch resident Jessica Macy, while Shanee Hartford-Ostrom said it had dropped to -17 at Indian Ford in Sisters and Holly Thomas said it had fallen to -16 just off Sixth Street in La Pine.

Maggie Turner said it was -14 in Powell Butte and Haydra Kinsey reported a -10 in Tumalo.

(Check the records in your area at http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/summary/climsmor.html)

The National Weather Service on Saturday replaced its wind chill watch with a wind chill warning for a wide swath east of the Cascades, predicting wind chill values of 15 below to 25 below -- a figure later dropped to potential 30-below Saturday night.

"Those who must be outside should dress in adequate clothing and minimize exposure," forecasters warned.

On Saturday morning, for the second time in three days, a dog was reported to have fallen through the ice in the Deschutes River in northwest Bend, west of Lakeside Place, but the dog quickly made it back onto the ice, then the shore and ran off, according to unconfirmed scanner reports.

There were several more car crashes reported, though none were reported to have serious injuries. A sander reportedly "froze up" in the extreme cold and a semi that got stuck on Revere Avenue was putting on chains to get moving again.

Official lows early Saturday included 1 degree at Bend Airport and 3 at Redmond Airport. Records fell in several Eastern Oregon cities, but none were reported broken on the High Desert.

Still at noon early Saturday, under sunny, cold skies, Bend Airport was still at just 5 degrees (rising to 7 for a time, then back to 5 for much of the afternoon), Madras was at 7, Redmond Airport 6, Prineville Airport at 4 and Warm Springs was "warmer" at 14. To the south, La Pine had 5- and 6-degree readings and Sunriver Airport reported it was 5, while to the west, Tumalo was at 5 degrees,

Sisters Airport was at 9, and up at Mt. Bachelor -- where the latest storm brought a foot of welcome snow -- it was -4 at mid-mountain at noon.

For first time in its decades-long history, Saturday's Bend Christmas Parade was canceled due to frigid temperatures and wind chill readings that could approach minus-20.

Here's the full announcement:

The Downtown Bend Business Association announced at 3:00 P.M. today that it has canceled the Bend Christmas Parade scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, December 7th. Current and forecast weather forced the cancellation.

Temperatures are expected to stay in the single digits tomorrow. Combine that with increased winds and it will feel like below zero. The risk of frostbite due to exposure is just too great. Young children participating in the parade are particularly at risk.

“This is the responsible thing to do. While it saddens us to cancel the parade, we have to be mindful of safety,” said Chuck Arnold, Executive Director of the Downtown Bend Business Association.

“A great thanks goes out to Bend Christmas Parade Chair, Ernie Gilpin and the 11 committee members that have worked tirelessly to prepare the parade. We would also like to thank the hundreds of people in the community that prepared floats and who dedicated their time to help plan the event.”

Visits With Santa held at Capell’s Patio at Franklin Avenue and Wall Street are also cancelled for tomorrow. Santa will visit with children next Saturday, December 14th and Saturday, December 21st from 12:00 to 4:00 P.M.

The parade has been produced by a volunteer committee for 22 years. The Bend Metro Park and Rec District produced it before that, going back to at least 1980.

Parade organizers cited "dangerously cold temperatures and winds" for the reason in their announcement by Twitter.

The event was canceled, rather than delayed, because "it's just too much to try to make it work for next week," Arnold said.

The pre-parade Jingle Bell Run also has been canceled, said organizers of the event that had 1,200 participants registered. Instead, a Jingle Bell Social event will be held at The Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p,m.

Crooked River Ranch also canceled its planned parade, though organizers said indoor activities will proceed as planned.

Word came also that Saturday night's La Pine Light Parade has been pushed back a week, to Saturday, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. But Madras carried on with its cold nighttime parade Saturday.

Also, the Cascade Chorale said it's 2 p.m. Holiday Magic concert at Summit HS was on as planned, but the one scheduled for 7 p.m. was canceled due to the very cold weather and road-driving concerns.

In Redmond, Ridgeview High officials said their planned victory parade for the state-champion Ravens football team also was postponed, to a date not yet set.

But even without a downtown parade, many holiday events were going on. Redmond, for example, has a "charm stroll" open house involving 21 businesses, while Santa Claus will be a DynaCore Fitness. Mrs. Santa Claus will be reading to the kids at Paulina Springs Books.

People taking part in the "charm stroll" were asked to bring items such as toothpaste, tooth brushes, hats, gloves etc. These items will be put into "Blessing Bags" that the Girl Scouts are making. They are working with the Redmond police and St. Vincent de Paul and will be handing them out to 100 homeless families.

Among the 100-plus snow-depth reports to NewsChannel 21's Facebook page late Friday: Seven to eight inches or more and 6.5 degrees in La Pine, 5.5 inches in southwest Bend, 4-5 inches in southeast Bend, 4.5 inches in Sisters and 8 inches in Gilchrist.

Central Oregonians got just what they were warned about Friday -- snowfall added to the recent days of bitter cold, making for tricky driving for many and a rash of fortunately no- or minor-injury crashes across the High Desert.

While no school closures or delays were reported Friday, there was a record low in Sisters of -5, 10 degrees below the previous Dec. 6 record of 5, set back in 1973. John Day also broke a record at -4, four degrees below the 0 reading on the date in 1992.

NewsChannel 21 Chief Meteorologist Bob Shaw said the Friday morning snow showers would get heavier through the day, bringing up to a half-foot of snow in some areas by nightfall.

Add in temperatures only rising to the teens, and NE winds of 10-15 mph, and it can be pretty nasty to be out in for long, or drive long distances.

Shaw said overnight snow showers could add 2-4 inches of snow as lows drop below zero yet again for most -- meaning wind chills easily of -20 or worse. And yet, Bend's Christmas Parade (and Redmond's Ridgeview HS football victory parade) are expected to proceed, with everyone bundling up to be safe.

La Pine and Sunriver schools delayed classes for two hours Thursday morning due to problems with school buses not starting up in the bitter, sub-zero cold that hit a reported -18 in La Pine and nearly set a power-use record for Central Electric Cooperative. And the frigid onslaught is far from over.

It's a problem the Bend-La Pine Schools have had in the past when very cold temperatures arise.

School district transportation officials told NewsChannel 21 they were prepping for Friday to make sure the problem doesn't happen again. -- and apparently it worked.

"Tomorrow, we will be starting a little earlier," said Transportation Director Denice Blake.  We normally start at 5 in the morning, and this morning we could have used just a little extra time. And so we will be starting even earlier tomorrow morning, getting the buses to start."

At 6 a.m. Thursday, National Weather Service reporting stations in La Pine were reporting -10 and -11-degree readings. and it wasn't much "warmer" in Sunriver, where it was -5, Bend Airport, where it was -4, or Sisters Airport, where it was -7. To the north, Culver was at -2.

By 7 a.m., Bend had dropped to -6 and Redmond to -3, while La Pine stayed at -11 though one Website commenter, Brittany Bevel, said it was -18 at their place. Another said their water pipes are frozen.

Late Thursday, the NWS issued a winter storm warning for 5-7 inches of snow in Central Oregon and 6-8 inches in the John Day Highlands. Forecasters warned of dangerous driving on Highway 97 in the Bend-Redmond area and on Highway 395 around Seneca.

The snowy Friday is followed by a wind chill watch for Central and northeast Oregon from 10 p.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Sunday, warning of wind-chill readings of 20 to 25 degrees below zero.

With near-record power use, Central Electric Cooperative reminded members Thursday of ways they can minimize the impacts of single-digit and below-zero temperatures. 

CEC's system load Thursday morning reached 221 megawatts, the second highest in co-op history, officials said. The record of 242.3 megawatts was set in December 2009.

"Everyone uses more electricity during cold snaps like the one we are now experiencing," said Dave Markham, CEC president and chief executive officer.  "There are steps consumers can take to help minimize the impacts and be prepared in the event an outage occurs."

Preparation tips include:

  • Draw closed any drapes or curtains to retain warmth.
  • Maintain a constant thermostat level, don't cycle it up and down.
  • Close off any rooms not in use.
  • Dress warmly indoors to increase comfort and reduce the temptation to raise your thermostat.
  • Be sure foundation vents are closed to prevent freezing air from circulating around water pipes in the crawl space.

Harsh weather can create problems with the electrical system and an outage could result.

If you experience an outage:

  • Keep the house closed as much as possible; limit in and out traffic.
  • Dress warmly and gather blankets to stay warm.
  • If you can, spend your time away from the house, running errands, completing chores, etc.
  • Have arrangements in place to stay with unaffected friends or relatives if an extended outage is expected.  Visit the Outage Center on our web site to view a map of known outages. In the event of large, widespread or prolonged outages we will post updates on the status of the outage.
  • If your home is involved in a large outage, turn off or disconnect your major appliances. Once power is restored, turn them back on gradually; CEC recommends one every ten minutes.  This is necessary because utility electrical systems can experience a problem known as "cold loading" when the system is re-energized and is immediately faced with serving high demand, possibly causing protective systems to engage and extend the outage.
  • If you are using a portable generator, DO NOT connect it to your home's electrical system without a cutover switch installed by a licensed electrician. Doing so would create a safety threat to our linemen working on the system. Without a cutover switch, generators should only be used to run individual devices or appliances.

Also, ODOT officials in Bend put out the following 'Extreme Weather Advisory on Thursday:

Travelers in Central Oregon, especially South Central Oregon, should plan ahead for the possibility of extreme cold and snowy and icy roads as weather forecasters are predicting extreme weather conditions in the region starting Thursday night into Friday.

Driving on icy roads can be dangerous. Motorists should pay attention to the weather and road forecasts and plan transportation alternatives until conditions improve.

Those who must travel on snowy or icy roads should:

   Call 5-1-1 or visit www.TripCheck.com for the latest real-time traffic updates and camera views of Oregon’s highways.

    Use chains, winter traction tires, or studded tires;

    Slow down and be prepared for slow traffic;

    Leave extra stopping distance and:

    Maintain additional space between your vehicle and the one ahead.

Make sure your vehicle is stocked with the following:

    Flashlight and cell phone (with charger);

    Extra food and water;

    Blankets and extra warm clothes, boots, hat and gloves; and

    Ice scraper and snow brush.

For additional resources on winter driving and preparedness, please visit: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/COMM/Pages/winterdriving.aspx

ODOT crews have treated the roadways with anti-icing materials due to sub freezing temperatures. While, the anti-icing chemicals help reduce roadway freezing by lowering the freezing temperature of water, the chemicals do not prevent the road from freezing. Also, any melting snow can dilute these chemicals and cause the roads to freeze.

While ODOT crews will be on the roads working around the clock plowing, sanding and using anti-icing materials, motorists should expect hazardous driving conditions as severe weather persists.

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