Now Playing:

News

local | News | Environment

Central Oregon's Big Bad Winter Continues


School districts in the Portland metro area were already canceling school Wednesday as snow began to fall at a rate of one inch per hour Tuesday night.

While that’s significant, this winter has been particularly hard on central Oregon. Another winter storm is hammering that region with even more snow.

Clint Burleigh, a lieutenant with the Bend Police Department, said his vehicle has studded snow tires and all-wheel drive, and he still struggled to get around town Tuesday.

“It looks like a snow globe, honestly,” Burleigh said. “I’m looking out the window as we talk. Snow’s coming down. It’s not stopping”

He said snow drifts are 4–5 feet tall in places.

“It’s not something Bend and central Oregon sees on a regular basis,” he said.

Burleigh said the snow is so dense that it’s narrowing roadways, making it difficult for drivers and emergency vehicles to get around the city.

During most winters in central Oregon, there’s a warming that typically happens after storms, and the region’s snowpack melts down. But so far this winter, he said, that’s not happening.

“I’ve heard people say this is a 25–30 year storm. They haven’t seen it like this since the late 70s, early 80s,” he said. “This is definitely not something I’ve dealt with in almost 20 years of being with the Bend Police Department.”

Julianne Repman, with the Bend-LaPine School District, said so far this school year, the district has had four snow days. The district was closed Tuesday.

“In the 20 years between 1989 and 2009, we had five closures in total, just to give you some perspective,” she said. “This is a really significant change for the school district as far as actually closing school due to weather.”

Repman said many people are stuck in their homes and unable to get out to pick up things like medications. She said the district is also checking in with families to make sure students have winter clothing and food.

“We are in the middle of what some are considering a bit of an epic weather event here in central Oregon,” Repman said. “We’ve had snow on the ground for nearly a month, and it just keeps coming.”

Bend is accustomed to winter weather. It’s one of the reasons people live there: skiing at Mount Bachelor, snowmobiling and other outdoor winter activities are all part of central Oregon’s culture. The fact that Bend is struggling with this winter’s intense snowfall underscores just how incredible this winter has been.

Anne Aaurnad, a spokeswoman with the city of Bend, said the city is doing the best it can to keep roads and sidewalks clear. But she said there has been some grumbling around town.

“The newer members of our community may not be prepared for this,” she said. “It doesn’t happen very often. I know there’s a lot of people that just have really high expectations of sidewalks being cleared, and roads being perfect. …. I think this is a reminder for all of us that we live in a mountain town and we have to be prepared for stuff like this.”

Despite all the snow, the National Weather Service forecasts this weekend to be clear and precipitation free. Temperatures, however, aren’t expected to be warm enough to melt all the snow.

More News

More OPB