A fierce windstorm raked the High Desert with winds to 50 mph or higher Sunday, sending several trees toppling – one smashing into a long-time Sisters restaurant – but fortunately, no serious injuries were reported. A semi flipped on Highway 26 north of Warm Springs, travelers were urged to stay off the roads, and winds hitting 90-120 mph atop Mt. Bachelor closed the resort for the day.
Deschutes County 911 dispatchers and sheriff deputies were answering numerous calls on high winds and downed trees closing roads and damaging property, from Sisters and La Pine to the Sunriver and Spring River areas, Sgt. Dan Bilyeu said Sunday evening.
The sergeant urged residents in affected areas to “keep travel to a minimum, as there are several reported and probably unreported traffic hazards, trees across power lines and roadways.” Winds gusting to 30 to 50 mph are expected to continue through Monday.
“If travel is absolutely necessary, please use all care and caution and be prepared for delays and/or alternate routes of travel,” Bilyeu’s statement said.
Ski Inn General Manager Carrie McGonagle said she’d just headed home for the day around 2:15 p.m. and pulled into her driveway when she got a call to return – that something happened.
A tall Ponderosa pine that had stood beside the Ski Inn Restaurant for decades – since McGonagle was a little girl – had fallen in the 40 to 50 mph wind gusts – smashing straight through the front of the East Cascade Avenue business, which has been in the Palmer family for 42 years.
“It’s pretty much totaled,” McGonagle said of the restaurant, which has been a “family legacy.”
Waitress Amanda Anderson was struck on the head as the tree fell and was heading to be checked out for any concussion or head injuries, McGonagle said. Later, she posted on a Facebook photo that she was going to be okay, “just sore for a few (days) and that the “doctor said to take it easy.”
McGonagle said, “We had a local customer that was pretty much blown off the front stool there and hit the wall,” adding that he too was being checked for any injuries.
That customer, Mike Smith of Sisters, was eating at the counter when the tree smashed through the roof, he told the The Nugget News.
"Just boom! Like a bomb went off," he told the paper, and things “just flew everywhere -- blew me off my stool." Smith figured about a dozen staff and customers were in the restaurant.
Several other trees also fell in the Sisters area, like one at the corner of East Hood and South Fir. Trees also fell in the Bend area, including one near Tekampe Road southeast of town.
At higher elevations, winds gusted to 90-120 mph at the summit of Mt. Bachelor, according to spokesman Andy Goggins, and close to 70 mph at the mid-mountain level. The resort said the severe storm brought damaging wind and rain to the mountain, with fallen trees, branches on the runs and -- to the dismay of anxious skiers and boarders -- the meager snowpack "has been eaten away by the high humidity and wet conditions," the Sunday update stated.
But better news is on the way -- with 6-12 inches of snow expected through Monday as the snow level drops, that should start rebuilding the snowpack, making a Monday reopening possible, though not certain.