The first severe storm of the winter season hit Oregon Tuesday morning, with blizzard conditions, extreme winds and multiple feet of snow in the Cascade Mountains expected. In the lower elevations of Central Oregon, snow started falling Tuesday morning and could bring a challenging mix of heavy rain, wind, ice and snow over the next couple of days.
The Blizzard Warning has been issued for 4:00 a.m. Tuesday to 4:00 p.m. Wednesday for the Oregon Cascades, eastern slopes of the Cascades, La Pine and Sunriver. A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for much of the rest of Central Oregon through Wednesday afternoon.
Forecasters are warning that travel could be difficult to impossible over the mountain passes starting early Tuesday. State highway officials say strong winds will blow de-icer and traction sand off roads and quickly erase efforts to remove snow from the roads.
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“Even with plows continuously running, you are still going to be driving through a lot of snow on the road,” said Kacey Davey, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation, Central Oregon region. “Whether you are behind a plow or out where there’s no one else around, you could still have whiteout conditions. With these high winds you have to be really careful because it can bring down trees and debris onto the road. We really want people to understand what they could be encountering if they decide to travel in the next few days.”
It was only in the past week that the City of Bend’s Public Works Department installed snowplows on their dump trucks. On Monday, they were installing chains on the city’s fleet of 30 plow vehicles
“Those range from pickups up to big front plows like this. We’ve got belly plows. A couple of road graders. Different tools for different areas in town,” said David Abbas, director of streets and operations for the City of Bend. “We’ve got microclimates in town so the butte or southwest typically gets a little heavier snow than say the northeast.”
Abbas said he’s expecting 3- to 5-inches of snow in Bend Tuesday.
“That 4 a.m. crew comes in, tries to tackle what Mother Nature has given us, tries to take care of those morning commute conditions and things are as safe as we can have them. There’s a one-hour overlap. Pass the baton. Pass the snowplow on to the next shift. That shift goes through 7 p.m., taking care of that evening commute,” Abbas said.
If you are determined to drive over a mountain pass, be prepared.
“Have a vehicle that’s capable. Have a driver that’s capable. That means good tires. Full charge. A full tank of gas. Good windshield wipers,” Davey said. “And have an emergency kit in your car because one downed tree, one accident and the road could be closed for hours and you could be stuck for a long time.”
If you are able to cancel or delay travel, road maintenance officials encourage you do so.
The blizzard conditions are expected to persist through Wednesday afternoon.