As winter approaches there’s more to remember than simply moving your clocks back an hour before going to bed Saturday night.
On Monday, Bend woke up to its first real taste of snow. The good news is that forecasters at the National Weather Service in Pendleton do not foresee any immediate winter weather escalation.
In fact, they called Monday’s snowy weather “unusual.”
Nonetheless, on Friday it becomes legal for Oregon drivers to use studded tires. Even though we are a few weeks away from the typical beginning of snowy weather, there’s still good reason to have winter-worthy tires in place early.
“In Central Oregon, it doesn’t matter what tire store you’re going to; when studs are legal and it’s snowing, people are going to line up out the door,” said Bob Burks of the Nelsen Tire Factory on North U.S. Highway 97 in Bend. “On that kind of a day, we’d be backed up for hours. Even today because of the weather, we’re backed up for two hours.”
Drivers do not have to buy studded tires. Burks said chains are the most reasonably priced option, but that the labor required to put them on makes them less useful for unexpected ice.
There are also nonstudded traction tires, including all-season and winter tires, which can both help in the snow. Winter tires are best for rough conditions and typically offer more traction than studded tires. But Burks said a set of four can cost over $1,000, depending on the tire size needed.
Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Murphy said that there are good reasons to explore non-studded tires.
“We have determined that the use of studded tires is best on ice, not snow,” Murphy said. “But the amount of time per year that studded tires actually assist you is about 1 percent of all driving time.”
Studded tires cause extensive damage to roadways, resulting in the ruts you see on Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond. ODOT will soon spend $5 million to fix this stretch of highway damaged by the tires.
“We encourage people to explore the use of nonstudded winter tires, but it’s up to the individual motorist to determine what’s best for him or her,” Murphy said.
When will the bad weather hit?
Ann Adams, an assistant forecaster in Pendleton, said that Central Oregon usually doesn’t start to see snow until the second half of November.
“After this system moves out, the weather in Central Oregon will dry up for a while,” she said. “The last week of October through the first half of November — I’d say it’s not that normal for snowfall to occur. By the second half, every day it becomes more and more normal for small amounts of snowfall to occur.”