February’s historic snowstorm left thigh-high snow on the ground Tuesday across Central Oregon, kept plows running on streets, shuttered schools and offices and grounded flights at Redmond Airport.
National Weather Service meteorologists Tuesday were trying to better tally how much snow fell Monday.
La Pine had the most snowfall in the region, piling up 48 inches by 3 p.m. Monday, according to weather service reports. The reports also showed Redmond had 30 inches of snow and Sisters had 27.5 inches.
Bend totaled more than 25 inches in some areas. But the 12.5 inches recorded Monday morning is the highest one-day snow total in February since the agency started tracking it in 1901. It is also the highest amount recorded on Feb. 25, breaking the old record of 11 inches for that day in 1993.
More snow is expected. A winter storm warning is in effect until 4 a.m. Thursday, when another 5 to 10 inches of snow could fall, the weather service said.
Jim Smith, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pendleton, said snowfall is common in Central Oregon in February, but it is rare to get this much.
“It is definitely a unique event for this late in the year,” Smith said. “But it is not unusual to get snow in Central Oregon. If memory serves, it can essentially snow any month of the year.”
Redmond Airport remained closed Tuesday and is not scheduled to reopen until 9 a.m. Wednesday. The winter storm damaged the airport’s navigational system for pilots, according to airport officials.
The airport’s closure upended travel plans for many people this week.
Retired Bend resident Toni Low had to scramble Tuesday when her flight out of Redmond for a vacation to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with friends was canceled. She was able to find a flight out of the Portland International Airport to her connecting flight in San Francisco, but she had to borrow a friend’s pickup truck and drive U.S. Highway 20 over the snowy Santiam Pass, which was closed Monday due to an avalanche.
The unexpected road trip to Portland and airline travel will be worth it when Low makes it to Puerto Rico, where she plans to snorkel, paddleboard and celebrate a friend’s 70th birthday in 80 degree weather.
“We are determined to get there,” she said. “We are not giving up.”
Bend-La Pine Schools , Redmond School District schools, Redmond Proficiency Academy, Jefferson and Crook County school districts, Sisters School District, Culver School District, Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades were closed Tuesday and will remain closed Wednesday.
Rainier Butler, spokesman for Redmond School District, said staff is closely watching M.A. Lynch Elementary, which has a flat roof that sags under heavy snowfall and is a concern for the district.
Heavy snow on flat roofs is a major focus for local school districts, especially after the gym at Bend’s Highland Magnet at Kenwood School collapsed from heavy snow in January 2017.
“We’re closely monitoring it for signs of weakness,” Butler said. “We don’t see any issues. There’s a lot of snow, but it’s light and fluffy, so not a great deal of impact.”
Corky Wray, owner of Central Oregon Disaster Restoration, said he has not heard about heavy snow damaging homes in the region.
“This snow is pretty light,” Wray said. “It’s not causing structural damage from too much weight on the roof, at least not yet.”
If the snow sticks around for a few more days, it could start causing ice dams on people’s roofs, Wray said. An ice dam forms on the eave of a sloped roof when heat from inside the building melts the snow and it freezes on the roof.
During the historic snowfall two years ago, Central Oregon Disaster Restoration received more than 500 calls over a two-month period, almost as many as it gets in an entire year. The majority of the calls were for ice dams, Wray said.
Wray’s crew just recently finished fixing all the buildings damaged from the relentless snowfall two years ago. And now the crew is bracing for more calls with record snowfall again.
“We are having flashbacks,” Wray said.
The city of Bend is working at full capacity to clear streets, said spokeswoman Anne Aurand. Thirty-four plows are being used, a fleet that includes equipment from private contractors, she said.
The city may declare a winter parking emergency, where cars parked on some city streets could be towed, Aurand said. But that emergency was not issued, as of Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re still evaluating that idea,” Aurand said. “For now, we’re staying focused on continuing to clear the main streets and neighborhood streets.”
Aurand said the city received complaints about snow plows blocking driveways with berms, which must be shoveled by residents. While acknowledging it was an inconvenience, Aurand said the city does not have the manpower to alleviate the problem.
Elderly and disabled residents who need help shoveling snow are encouraged to call the city’s volunteer coordinator at 541-388-5579 to be connected with a volunteer in their neighborhood.
Meals on Wheels continues to be affected and will not deliver meals in Bend or La Pine on Wednesday.
Peter Murphy, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said the state agency is using every available piece of equipment to clear highways across the state.
Both Highway 20 from Bend to Salem and state Highway 126 between Madras and Portland are clear for travel, Murphy said Tuesday afternoon.
“Travel is slow, but they are open,” Murphy said. “We have basically nothing major on any of our highway systems locally.”
The only major closure in the region Tuesday was state Highway 58 near Oakridge, which is closed indefinitely due to downed trees, Murphy said. Parts of Highway 20 and Highway 126 were also closed Tuesday east of Sweet Home.
Travelers can get updates on road conditions online at, www.tripcheck.com.
— Bulletin reporter Jackson Hogan contributed to this report.
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