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Snow stops, fog arrives as High Desert digs out

By Barney Lerten
John Hendricks
Published On: Feb 05 2014 10:01:17 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 09 2014 09:58:11 PM CST

Snow measured in feet not inches - rare in Bend - made for a challenging Saturday for many.

BEND, Ore. -

The sun broke out and temperatures warmed over many parts of Central Oregon's snowy winter wonderland Sunday morning -- providing better conditions for government crews, contractors and regular folks to get busy shoveling, plowing, blowing and moving aside two-plus feet of snow from the past two days' onslaught.

Temperatures quickly rose to freezing in Bend on Sunday morning and several degrees above in the afternoon -- but then, as night fell, in moved fog that quickly dropped visibility.

Redmond Airport reopened Sunday after a 36-hour closure due to heavy snowfall -- which officials said the first closure for 24 hours or longer in close to a quarter -century.

Some schools made early calls for Monday closures, including Jefferson County 509-J , Culver and the Redmond Proficiency Academy (Redmond schools already were planned to have no classes Monday for a district-wide curriculum day.)

Bend-La Pine Schools decided Sunday night on a two-hour delay of classes Monday morning.

"The decision to delay comes as the result of a record-breaking snow storm that has left much of the area blanketed in deep snow," the district said in Sunday night's announcement. "Bend-La Pine Schools' Transportation crews spent several hours driving area roads today and determined that the combination of sub-freezing temperatures and standing water, slush and snow on area roadways would make travel too risky for an on-time start in the morning."

City of Bend spokesman Justin Finestone said all city plow crews were out Sunday, including contractors, in hopes of clearing neighborhood streets by day's end. He said city crews have been working 12-hour shifts since Friday and were making good progress on the big task.

But because the snow rarely stopped falling heavily, it could take days for everyone on the High Desert to fully dig out.

Madras Airport reported 12 degrees, freezing fog and half-mile visibility at 7 p.m. Sunday, while the Bend Airport had 27 degrees, fog and a half-mile visibility.

The National Weather Service reported more snowstorm reports Sunday, including 18 inches in 24 hours by a spotter six miles southeast of Bend, for a total of 25 inches from the storm. Camp Sherman's spotter reported 22 inches fell on Saturday, another west-northwest of Bend reported 19 inches Saturday. Other reports included 14 inches in 24 hours seven miles northeast of Bend, eight inches west-northwest of Sisters and 4.5 inches north-northwest of Madras.

The NWS also warned Sunday that rising temperatures and snow melt could bring "minor nuisance flooding in urban areas and small creeks" over Central Oregon and other areas east of the Cascades. Water levels are expected to rise on rivers but remain below flood stage, forecasters said, adding that rain or snow could boost snow melt Tuesday and Wednesday as well.

Despite all that snow, Central Oregon and the rest of the state still have a lot of catching up to do, snowpack-wise. Automated Snotel readings Sunday morning showed the Upper Deschutes/Crooked River Basin still only at 50 percent of average snow-water content for this point in the winter and precipitation just 58 percent of normal.

Sgt. Nathan Garibay, emergency services manager for the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, issued a plea Saturday morning that residents "forgo travel plans and stay off the roadways" so crews could work to clear them, working on main roads before residential streets.

The NWS allowed its winter storm to expire at 10 p.m. Saturday.

And  the new threat of a messy transition -- familiar to long-time High Desert residents -- a slight chance of freezing rain or sleet -- was pushed back 24 hours, to early Monday -- providing more time to clean up from the snowy onslaught.

But as it all melts, that could pose flooding problems, and-or an icy-slushy travel challenge.

Everyone had stories to tell of the challenges the heavy snow brought Friday night and Saturday.

Marily Badger of the Woodside Ranch neighborhood on Bend's south side said they "barely made it home (Friday) night and almost couldn't make it down our own driveway." She said the new snowfall was "very heavy, with branches breaking. It seems like a losing battle as we keep plowing, but we are afraid to stop."

But there also were plenty of stories of Central Oregon neighbors helping neighbors -- offering a stuck mail truck in Redmond a tow, shoveling the snow from elderly or disabled residents' sidewalks or porches and the like.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday, NWS storm spotter 24-hour snow totals included 19 inches in the Sisters area, 18 inches at Bend and Madras, 16 inches at Tumalo, 15 inches at Prineville and Sunriver, 15 1/2 inches at Terrebonne and 12 inches at Pelton Dam.

That Bend snowfall report obliterates the daily record for Feb. 8 snowfall of seven inches, set back in 1944, and for snow depth of 12 inches, set in 1969.

But the record official snow depth for Bend in the record period from 1928 to 2005 is 23 inches, set back on Jan. 4, 1982 -- a very snowy month -- though many of the closest highest readings came during the very snowy, memorable winter of 1992-93, according to the Western Region Climate Center. (Check the records and data for cities around Oregon at http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/summary/climsmor.html)

By noon, a Camp Sherman storm spotter had 22 inches in 24 hours, for a 29-inch tally on the ground.

Early Saturday afternoon, a spotter northwest of Bend reported 19 inches in 24 hours and it was coming down at a rate of an inch an hour.

Early Saturday morning, a National Weather Service storm spotter in Sisters said a foot of snow had fallen in 12 hours, for a total depth of 32 inches.

Another spotter north of La Pine had a 16-inch total in 24 hours -- and 20 inches in 48 hours.

A Warm Springs storm spotter reported 14 inches of new snow since Friday afternoon and a 27-inch total on the ground.

In Facebook posts to NewsChannel 21, Nancy Jones Foote reported 22 inches southwest of Sunriver, whileSara White McCool reported 23 inches near Round Butte near Madras. Near Sisters, Donna Scott said there was 25 inches on Holmes Road -- and Jennifer Gleason Smith reported 37 inches on George Cyrus Road in Sisters.

Meanwhile, to the south, Yvone Fuqua of La Pine said they had just one more inch of rain Saturday, "but man, the RAIN sucked!"

The snow wasn't just affecting people. The Three Rivers Humane Society in Madras reported Saturday that its tarps and shelters were being destroyed by the heavy snowfall, prompting movement of dogs to veterinarians or foster homes. For more information or how to help, call 541-475-6889.

In late Friday e-mails and Facebook posts to NewsChannel 21, Crooked River Ranch resident Jana Lynn said she had 13 inches on the ground and "still dumping" two hours later.

Jacqui Robinson at Tumalo Rim said they had 14 inches total. Charles Stuber reported 11 inches by the evening and there was 10 inches by then at Deschutes River Canyon Rim in southwest Bend.

A Deschutes River Woods resident reported 18 inches on the ground Friday night, while there were 10 to 14 inches in Juniper Canyon southeast of Prineville, according to Amie Hamilton.

And by 10 p.m. Friday, viewers in Madras, Crooked River Ranch and DRW all said the same magic number -- 20 inches, and still coming down. One Tumalo-area resident, Donna Johnson, reported an even higher number -- 2 1/2 feet, or 30 inches.

The snow hitting across the Northwest was causing havoc for travelers by road and by air. Travelers (or would-be travelers) at Roberts Field reported the airport closed Friday night, and a glance at the online flight status at http://www.flyrdm.com/?Flight-Status showed numerous flights canceled.

Chris Piper, a Bend resident who flew home from San Francisco Friday night via Seattle, said "if there was an Olympic "aviation snow landing category, our Alaska pilot would have received the gold medal!"

The airport had hoped to open by Saturday afternoon, but the snow wouldn't quit, so RDM remained shut, hoping now for a Sunday morning return to service (though the terminal remained open.)

Acting early, on Thursday night, Jefferson County and Culver schools canceled classes for Friday, while Redmond schools decided early Friday to delay classes by two hours.

As heavy snow again fell Friday afternoon, causing a rash of crashes, COCC announced for a second day that its campuses would close around the region at 5:30 p.m., as did OSU-Cascades.

Central Christian School in Redmond also decided to close for the day.

As the plows and shovels worked to clear snow Friday came word of more impacts on the High Desert. The Waldorf School of Bend announced an early, 1:30 p.m. release for all students, while the Sunriver Nature Center canceled a Friday night lecture, "Dead Fish Don't Lie II."

Wells Fargo was closing most of its Oregon branches at 2 p.m. Friday.

The Oregon DMV also limited its operations around the state, including no drive tests Friday in Madras or Redmond and no commercial drivers license tests in Bend, as well as traction tires required on all Class C drives. Prineville also had no drive tests but was reassessing for the afternoon.

Also, the Bend Boys & Girls Club has canceled its planned Fine Arts Event tonight due to the amount of expected snow.

Send any updates you wish for us to share to stories@ktvz.com.

The U.S. Postal Service in Bend reported it was operating on normal routes and schedules Friday, but asked customers to please clear the path to mailboxes, so they can try to stay on schedule.

Mt. Bachelor reported six inches of new snow overnight and a 24-hour tally of eight inches, with it still coming down hard. On its much-delayed but warmly welcomed opening day, Hoodoo reported just over six inches of new snow in 24 hours for a 33-inch depth.

Before roads began to get slick around Bend, Thursday's worst troubles were in the Willamette Valley, where snowfall contributed to a 25-vehicle pileup and huge traffic jam on Interstate 5 north of Albany. Offices and schools were closing down -- so did the Oregon Legislature.

"It looks like its kind of a normal winter storm, which at this point kind of everybody is waiting to have," ODOT Spokesman Peter Murphy said Wednesday. "It's the kind of thing we're prepared for all the time, so we're ready for it."

Murphy added that snow plow drivers and other ODOT employees will be working an extra four hours a day to keep the highways clear.

"We have crews that are on schedule for basically 12 hours for a shift, so we have the whole day covered," Murphy said.

Here's Thursday's ODOT travel advisory:

Motorists should prepare to use extreme caution as heavy winter weather may make for treacherous highway conditions in the Central Oregon area for the duration of this week.

Travelers to the Willamette Valley should prepare for significant snowfall in the Cascades, and snow and possible freezing rain and high winds in the Valley, Metro area and Columbia Gorge.

Motorists should stay up to date on the weather forecast and make sure to get safely situated before bad weather hits. This is especially true for storms forecast to hit near the end of the school day or the start of commute times.

Here are some winter driving tips for travelers:

If roads get icy, consider not driving or delaying your trip until the weather warms and the ice thaws.

Driving in ice or snow, allow plenty of stopping distance in case you or the car ahead lose control and watch out for pedestrians and bicyclists because stopping distances are so much longer.

ODOT sand trucks, plows and deicer trucks can't clear roads clogged with traffic. The more traffic stays off the road, the quicker roads can be treated.

Consider working from home or taking the day off until the roads are clear.

Don't abandon a vehicle in heavy traffic. This delays emergency responders, prevents plows and other maintenance equipment from getting through. Remain with your vehicle and call for help. If you leave your car, it could get towed.

With the latest storm moving through, it's good to remember to clear your sidewalks or snow. The City of Bend requires you to clear the sidewalks 24 hours after the snow has fallen.

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