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Hwy. 97 gets icy again after snow, windstorm

By Barney Lerten
Published On: Jan 11 2014 01:23:39 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 13 2014 01:38:19 AM CST

The winter wrath of mother nature caused a tree to collapse into a home.

BEND, Ore. -

An intense storm toppled trees and knocked out power for thousands in Central Oregon and elsewhere in the state Saturday. Parts of the High Desert got heavy snow later in the day, and Highway 97 got slick again Sunday evening south of Bend, apparently contributing to a rollover crash.

There also were some slick road conditions Sunday evening on Highway 97 in the Lava Butte area south of Bend. A car left the northbound roadway and rolled at least three times, according to unconfirmed scanner reports, but Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said the two occupants did not require transport to the hospital.

Another car slid off the road in the same area, prompting deputies to call for ODOT sanders due to black ice on the frequently slick stretch of road that is similar to a mountain pass in elevation climb.

Power went out around 9 p.m. Saturday across a broad swath of the Midstate Electric Cooperative service area, from south of Sunriver to La Pine. The last power, in parts of Sunriver, was restored by 1:20 a.m. Sunday, said spokeswoman Teresa Lackey.

Lackey said four substations were knocked out around 9 p.m. when a BPA feeder line to Sunriver went out. Three were back on by 10:30 p.m., though the north end of Sunriver still was out at that time, she said.

A high wind warning from the National Weather Service was in place until 10 p.m. Saturday across Central Oregon as the large Pacific storm moved through the region. Forecasters said winds from the southwest of 25-45 mph could bring local gusts of 60-70 mph before they decrease overnight.

A winter storm warning also was in effect until noon Sunday for much of the region's higher elevations, including La Pine, Sunriver and Camp Sherman, as 6-10 inches of snow are expected along the east slopes of the Oregon Cascades.

Mt. Bachelor had 13 inches of snow in 12 hours and a 24-hour total of 20 inches, boosting the mid-mountain snow depth to 80 inches and 63 inches at West Village.

The big pile of fresh powder made for smiles, but also big headaches for Mt. Bachelor, which said the intense overnight snowfall and wind-blown drifts had made for very limited parking and cancellation of a USASA ski event.

Traffic was bumper-to-bumper and moving very slowly, and resort officials urged skiers and boarders to carpool, use the shuttle or wait to come up until later Sunday, when more parking was cleared, more lifts opened and the squeeze lessened.

Dozens of frustrated, upset or angry customers (or would-be customers) posted notes to Mt. Bachelor's Facebook page, criticizing the resort's inability to adequately prepare for the forecast snow storm and be ready first thing Sunday.

Meanwhile, a weather spotter five miles north-northwest of La Pine reported eight inches of snow in 16 hours, while a spotter two miles northwest of Sisters reported seven inches. Others reported up to a foot of snow at higher elevations.

Southwest Bend resident Patti Rausch said a tall tree fell into their house on Ashford Drive early Saturday morning.

The tree that fell between 5:30 and 6 a.m. Saturday sent branches and debris through the ceiling into one of the bedrooms and also caused damage in the living room, but Rausch said fortunately, everyone got out unharmed.

"There was a big crash and it woke me up," Rausch said, "and I came running down to the other end of the house, and saw the ceiling had caved in and saw all the debris."

Rausch said they plan to stay in a motel until they can find another two-bedroom place to live.

Later, snow began to fall - and stick -- across much of the High Desert Saturday afternoon, making for more slick roads and slide-offs.

A bus leaving Mt. Bachelor reportedly slid off Highway 372 late Saturday afternoon, but there were no injuries reported among the 47 people aboard.

Teresa Anderson, who lives just south of Sunriver, said a half-foot of snow fell in just about an hour, and plows and sanding crews said areas to the south bore the brunt of the latest snowfall.

Southwest Bend resident Scott Brees measured four inches of snow between noon and 7:30 p.m.

Packed snow was reported on Highway 97 in the La Pine area.

A two-car head-on crash blocked Hwy. 97 near Sunriver for a time Saturday evening. Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said everyone was okay and no one needed to be taken to the hospital.

There also were a new string of power outages Saturday night affecting more than 300 Pacific Power customers, including one near the China Hat substation on Bend's south end and another west of Redmond.

The NWS says winds were clocked as high as 70 mph on the coast and 40 mph in the Willamette Valley Saturday afternoon. There were isolated thunderstorms and lighting.

Forecasters say colder air moving in will dump 12 to 18 inches of snow in the Cascades overnight, with as much as two feet possible at higher elevations by the end of the weekend. However, strong winds forced Timberline Lodge to close ski lifts.

A warm front Sunday is expected to bring heavy rain to the Valley on Sunday, followed by dryer weather across Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington by Monday night.

KGW reports (http://bit.ly/1kvech5 ) that 11,000 Portland General Electric customers lost power in the Portland area. U.S. Highway 20 was closed near Sweet Home for several hours Saturday morning as crews cleared downed power lines.

On the High Desert, numerous trees were downed and power was knocked out to thousands, some for several hours.

About 1,000 Midstate Electric customers in southern Deschutes County lost power early Saturday due to scattered power outages, though crews had all but 40 back by mid-morning, Lackey said.

Nearly 1,300 Pacific Power customers on Bend's south side also lost power overnight as winds gusted to near 50 mph in the area, though only about 300 still had no service at mid-morning in a relative lull in the stormy weather.  Another 110 lost power in northwest Bend, near Hillside Park, spokesman Bob Gravely confirmed.

The last south Bend customers affected by the outage from the utility's Bond Street substation had been expected to get service restored by early afternoon, but that later was pushed back to 5:30 p.m. However, all apparently had power restored by mid-afternoon.

We'll have updates through the weekend and a complete report with your Local Alert Weather forecast at 10 and 11.

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