There’s no doubt Central Oregon has been walloped by snow the last couple of weeks. Bend got something like 17 inches of it in mid-December, and that’s been added to several times since.
Yet for all December’s snowfall, it wasn’t until this week that a record was set.
For reference, consider this: Between Dec. 8 and 11 in 1919, the city was buried under 47 inches of snow. That was 47 inches in just four days, enough, no doubt, to bring even the hardiest Central Oregonians to a standstill.
This week’s snowfall picked up where the 2016 snowfall left off. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch sometime Sunday; by Monday afternoon that had been dropped in favor of the more severe — more certain — winter storm warning that lasted through midmorning Wednesday. Predictions were that more than a foot of snow could fall in parts of Central Oregon Monday night through early Wednesday.
Those predictions were surely responsible for the crowds and the sense of near panic in local grocery stores Monday afternoon. I generally shop on my lunch hour — the supermarket is usually fairly quiet and even in the worst weather one can park near the door.
Not so, Monday. The Safeway near my office was packed, something I’d never seen before at that time of day. It had sold out of conventional russet potatoes, it was down to a handful of green beans, and judging from the carts I saw, it was doing a brisk business in wine.
Yet for all the discomfort of waking up to roughly 2 feet of snow Wednesday, to having school canceled again, to having to shovel a driveway that gets longer by the minute, there are things to be grateful for.
One is the cold weather. Really.
By Dec. 20, 1964, Bend had 11 inches of snow on the ground. In the week before, daytime highs had been in the low 30s and overnight lows in the teens and below. Then, with all that snow, things changed. Thanks to a Pineapple Express the high on Dec. 21 was in the mid-40s; the overnight low was also in the mid-40s. And it rained, and rained, and rained.
The result was disaster. There were no open routes out of the region to the north. The Santiam highway washed out above and below Marion Forks, and the bridge into Warm Springs was gone. There was no running water in that community, and plans were made to airlift baby formula and disposable diapers, among other supplies.
So while cold weather has its drawbacks, we’re unlikely to see flooding in this part of the state as a result of this series of storms.
Then there are computers. We’re already a region with more than our share of computer commuters, and this week has surely increased that number — I count myself among them. That wouldn’t have been possible 30 years ago.
But perhaps best of all, at least for me, are my neighbors. This neighborhood is relatively self-contained, and with little traffic and great sidewalks, people here get out and get to know one another. And, when times are tough, they lend a hand.
Thus the woman who lives across the street from me, accompanied by her daughter, came and helped me dig out last week. My driveway finished, they went next door and helped the man there do the same thing. Last year, when the snow took down a limb on my pine tree, another neighbor had it cut down and gone in short order. And the man next door dropped by Monday to help me, yet again, clear the driveway. I will return all those favors in the next few days.
In the end, it’s the neighbors, all over the area. This newspaper has written about some of them, but I know there are many more, men, women, even children whose small acts of kindness have helped make the weather something to talk about but not panic over. Our neighbors, know them well or not, are part of what makes Central Oregon such a good place to live.
— Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin. Contact: 541-617-7821, email@example.com