Big melt may follow Central Oregon snowfall

By Hillary Borrud The Bulletin
Published Feb 8, 2014 at 08:23PM / Updated Feb 9, 2014 at 06:28AM

Public works agencies hope to have streets and highways more cleared off by Monday, when warm temperatures will begin to melt the snowfall from one of the biggest storms in the region in the past five years.

Saturday was relatively uneventful for law enforcement, with some fender benders but no major car crashes in Deschutes County. Law enforcement and other government agencies in Central Oregon asked people to stay home if possible on Saturday, to allow public works crews to continue plowing the roads. Snow forced Redmond Airport to close its airfield all day Saturday. The terminal remained open, and airport employees expected the airfield to reopen today.

The cold air that brought snow to Central Oregon was already moving north on Saturday. Roger Cloutier, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pendleton, said the forecast is for freezing rain today. That could translate into icy roads, although Cloutier said the chance of precipitation is less than in recent days. The weather service expects rain on Monday, as high temperatures in Bend could reach the mid-30s. The forecast calls for temperatures to climb into the 40s Tuesday.

Bend Street Division manager Hardy Hanson said Saturday the city’s goal is to clear all streets by Monday. Then, the challenge will be dealing with the runoff, as the piles of snow along roadways begin to melt.

“Our next concern is, we’ll have a quick warming trend and rain, and then we’ll have a flooding situation,” Hanson said. People should clear snow around storm drains on their streets to allow water to drain, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office wrote in a news release.

Peter Murphy, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said that highways could become “sloppy” if temperatures warm up as forecast. “Actually, the more we can hope for continued cold, the better off we’ll be, because it will allow us to continue to scoop up snow,” Murphy said.

ODOT brought in a road grader with a special blade from Burns to break up compacted snow on the Bend Parkway over the weekend, and Murphy said employees, including a highway construction employee who happened to have a commercial driver’s license, pitched in to operate snow removal equipment.

Meanwhile, some local ODOT employees were sent to clear snow in Santiam Pass, because the crew that normally handles that area was diverted to Salem.

“We’ve been putting the maximum effort out,” Murphy said.

As temperatures hovered in the teens Friday and Saturday, the snow in Central Oregon was lighter and had a higher snow-to-water ratio than in warmer temperatures. Cloutier said when snow forms at 32 degrees, the ratio is typically 10 inches of snow for every 1 inch of water. At 14 degrees, the low temperature in Bend Friday, Cloutier said the snow-to-water ratio is usually closer to 25 to 1.

“That’s one of the reasons why they got so much, because it was a dry, fluffy, powdery high ratio,” Cloutier said. “The colder it is, the greater the snow-to-water ratio.”

A weather spotter just northwest of Bend reported 19 inches of snow fell over 24 hours from Friday through Saturday afternoon and some of the time “it was snowing at a rate of 1 inch per hour,” Cloutier said.

The snowfall varied widely across Central Oregon. In Crook County, a Powell Butte weather spotter reported 8 inches fell over 24 hours from Friday through Saturday afternoon. It snowed 16 inches in La Pine over the same time period, Sisters received 12 inches and it snowed 22 inches over a 24-hour period in Camp Sherman.

“It’s certainly one of the biggest storms in the last five years,” Cloutier said. “This is really the first big snowstorm for Central Oregon, and it came kind of late in the season.”

Beginning on Friday night, public works employees and contractors worked around the clock to clear streets and had covered most of the city on Saturday.

But as snow continued to fall, the streets that crews recently cleared were covered again by the time workers returned.

Hanson asked that people shovel snow into piles on their property, not into the streets.

“It’s a lot of snow, so I wouldn’t say (the streets are) clear, but they are passable,” Hanson said Saturday. “The problem is with the volumes of snow, we do it, and in three to four hours, we have to do it again.”

Bend volunteer coordinator Cheryl Howard works with a network of people who remove snow from public areas, such as bridges, and shovel sidewalks for people who are elderly or face other challenges and cannot afford to hire contractors.

On Saturday, Howard said the city did not ask volunteers to travel outside their neighborhoods, because it was too difficult to drive.

Instead, volunteers looked for opportunities to help in their own neighborhoods and Howard said that as people cleared driveways and cross-country skied down streets, it became a social day for many neighborhoods.

“Neighbors who have never even talked are just out skiing,” Howard said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin Crews work to remove piles of snow from the parking lot of the Forum Shopping Center off U.S. Highway 20 at 27th Street in Bend on Saturday afternoon.
Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin Justin Goodman uses his three-wheeler to slowly tow a group of neighborhood children on Bend's east side Saturday afternoon.
Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin Justin Goodman uses his three-wheeler to slowly tow a group of neighborhood children on their sleds while playing in the mounting snow Saturday afternoon on Bend's east side.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Mike Smith and his daughter Mia sled down the hill at Drake Park in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Elena Pressprich, of Bend, skies while her dog, Rio, walks along Northwest Wall Street in front of the downtown Bend public library on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Peter Yonan, of Bend, uses a snowblower to clear the parking lot of Awbrey Dental Group in Bend on Saturday. "Ive been here twenty years and never seen this much snow in this amount of time," Yonan said.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Ian Goold, of Bend, tries to clear the snow off his car parked on Bond Street in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Skiers and snowboarders cruise down a hill at Mount Bachelor on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Andy Villescas, of Bend, shovels snow off his truck parked by Drake Park in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Skiers walk over to get in line for the Pine Marten lift at Mt. Bachelor Ski Area on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Cars were lined up in the parking lot at Mt. Bachelor ski area on Saturday .
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Axl eyes the snow while out on a walk with owner Scott Hiss, of Bend, on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Scott Hiss walks his dog, Axl, through the snow along a sidewalk in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Anthony Duran shovels the sidewalk near his stepfather's business, Recycle Music, in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin A snowman in Drake Park in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin John Bassett with the Downtown Business Association shovels the sidewalk along Northwest Franklin Avenue in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Sledders cruise down the hill in Drake Park in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin A sign in a downtown Bend storefront explains the business is closed because of the snowstorm.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin A bulldozer travels through the intersection of Northwest Franklin Avenue and Wall Street on Saturday in Bend.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Snow accumulates in a tree in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Mirror Pond was covered with snow and ice on Saturday in Bend.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Makeila Quick, 6, pulls sister Kali Quick, 8, up the hill while sledding at Drake Park in Bend on Saturday.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin Mia Smith, 12, of Bend, sleds down the hill at Drake Park in Bend on Saturday afternoon.
Joe Kline / The Bulletin A car sits buried under snow near Drake Park in Bend on Saturday.
Andy Tullis / The Bulletin Doing his best to help out, Logan Jennart, 5, of Bend, begins the process of clearing the snow off his neighbors van Saturday afternoon.