On the morning before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year, Central Oregon residents awoke to record snowfall that made roads slick and dangerous.
No major car crashes occurred Wednesday in the region, but there were numerous vehicles sliding off the roads and minor crashes, said Peter Murphy, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Most roads stayed open in Central Oregon, except U.S. Highway 26, which closed Wednesday afternoon near milepost 109, about 7 miles north of Madras.
Snowfall is expected to taper off by Thanksgiving morning, but temperatures will keep the snow from melting and may create icy conditions on the roads, Murphy said.
“None of this is going to go away,” Murphy said. “It’s still going to be a challenge for motorists on the highways.”
More than 30 snowplows have been working to clear the snow in the streets of Bend since Tuesday evening, with a full crew starting as early as 2 a.m. Roughly 20 contractors have also been called to help clear residential areas for the next 24 to 36 hours, said David Abbas, the city’s streets and operations director.
Although the weather is expected to clear up sometime , Abbas anticipates crews will plow high-priority sections at least twice to keep up with the snow accumulation.
“We’ll get through this first storm together as a community,” Abbas said.
As snow removal efforts continue, Abbas is asking the community to avoid parking on the streets so plows can remove snow from curb to curb.
Both of the region’s higher education institutions, Central Oregon Community College and Oregon State University-Cascades, canceled all classes Wednesday due to the intense snow. For COCC, that includes classes at all four of its campuses: Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville, according to the college’s website.
“Yesterday evening travel was already becoming difficult on area roads, so we opted to close today, out of an abundance of caution. Typically, we don’t announce closures until early in the morning the day of the closure, but in this case, there was no reason to wait until morning to wait,” OSU-Cascades spokesperson Christine Coffin said.
All six K-12 school districts in Central Oregon, including Bend-La Pine Schools and Redmond School District, already scheduled Wednesday as a day off for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Snowfall totals have not been officially tallied by the National Weather Service office in Pendleton. But the snow that fell across Bend Tuesday evening through Wednesday night — about a foot, the weather service says — broke records, according to weather service data.
The previous record snowfall for Bend on Nov. 26 was 2 inches in 1960. The record in Bend for Nov. 27 was 3.8 inches in 1970, according to the data.
Snow remains in the forecast Saturday night into Sunday for Central Oregon. For those traveling home from Thanksgiving, the weather service recommends traveling Friday or Saturday morning before the snow returns.
The expected snowfall over the weekend will not compare to the record amount on the ground, said Dan Slagle, weather service meteorologist in Pendleton.
“I wouldn’t expect anywhere near what we have seen,” he said.