News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Snow piles up across Sisters Country

The snow that fell in Sisters Country much of last week causing some havoc and disruption was not a record - not even close - but it was nonetheless the main topic of conversation.

What made it the talk of the town were the winds and temperatures that tagged along. Sustained winds in the 20 mph range kept some folks up at night and consistent gusts in the 30s rattled windows and nerves.

The wind brought down a 30-plus foot ponderosa pine Friday on Steve Allely's property in the alley between South Elm Street and West Hood Avenue that crashed in a ball of sparks on central power and broadband lines taking out both and leaving hundreds in the vicinity without electricity or internet.

CEC restored power (and a new pole) within hours while TDS (cable) required two days to bring back the internet and in some cases telephone for those who WI-FI calling. The Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Protection headquarters station on Elm Street was without phone or internet until late Friday, but maintained radio communication.

The Sisters Athletic Club closed for a few days due to a city main water line to their premises breaking. Broken water lines kept plumbers out for hours and hours. And merchants all over Sisters reduced hours or closed altogether as commuting employees struggled to get to their jobs.

Sisters Public Works crews worked tirelessly, virtually around the clock, to plow streets and roads and public sidewalks. Their work is visible at downtown intersections where snow cleared from the streets is piled 15 feet or more into tidy mountains.

Dozens of westbound motorists could not get past Sisters for several days as they lacked chains or traction tires to summit the Santiam Pass. Ray and Jill Clausen spent Friday and Saturday nights in Ray's parking lot in their passenger van.

"Can't afford chains. Tires are nearly bald. Guess we're stuck here," Ray shrugged.

Trucker Manny Otero was carrying a load of auto parts from Idaho headed for I-5. He had to lay by the side of Highway 20 just west of Mainline Station as his chains had been stolen in Bend. ODOT has doubled the fine from $440 to $880 for truckers who ignore chain-up orders. Such trucks are the number one cause of road closures in snow storms.

"I'm waiting for my company to authorize new chains," Otero said. "I could be here for days."

There were a dozen more stories like Otero's or the Clausens' as the storm worsened and peaked Saturday. Many were huddled inside McDonald's sharing their plight.

Camp Sherman is recording 37 inches on the ground, according to resident Dick Kellogg, tired of shoveling but admiring of the snow's beauty.

At Black Butte Ranch owners were boasting - or moaning - of the roughly three feet they got. Drifts across the golf courses were closer to four feet in parts. The folks at Tollgate swear they have more than Sisters, as if it is some kind of contest.

Estimates in Sisters range from 20 to 30 inches depending on location.

Sunday afternoon the temperature rose to 12 and folks poured out of their homes to walk dogs, pull sleds, don cross country skis, and generally show that even a good storm like this one wasn't going to crimp their activities.

The forecast for next week projects lows in the 30s and highs in the 40s, accompanied by rain estimated at two-plus inches. That's a whole other problem in the making. Joined by melting snow, low lying area flooding is possible and muddy back roads and trails will be a different manner of misery.


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