Winter storm snarls holiday travel; Mt. Bachelor plans to open Friday

A fierce winter storm blasted Oregon Tuesday into Wednesday morning, causing travel headaches around the state but providing some joy for hopeful skiers and snowriders looking to get their season started this week.

Highway 97 and I-5 were both closed at the California border for a time Wednesday morning as heavy, blowing snow and icy roads led to nearly impossible driving conditions. By mid-morning I-5 southbound at Ashland was back open, but northbound was still closed just north of Redding well into the afternoon. Just before 3:30 Caltrans finally reported California Highway Patrol is escorting traffic from north of Redding to the Oregon border.

“Expect heavy traffic into Oregon once this long line of traffic comes across later this afternoon into the evening,” ODOT said in a statement.

ODOT said common sense and safety were the key words Wednesday. “Stay on maintained state highways. Do not use GPS to navigate around closures.”

“If an interstate freeway is not passable due to snow, please don’t think an unmaintained or limited winter maintenance road is better,” said Jeremiah Griffin, Assistant ODOT District Manager.

In Central Oregon, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office responded to several slide offs and accidents on Highway 26 north of Madras.

Redmond Airport officials said most of the flights in and out of RDM were on time, but worsening conditions at airports across the country were leading to a few delays. Airport Manager Zach Bass urged air travelers to contact their carrier or use the online flight status page to keep track of their flights.

Crews respond to a crash on Hwy 26 near Warm Springs Wednesday morning.

Bend officials said in a tweet crews were out plowing and sanding into the evening and were back on the job at 2 a.m. clearing roads for the morning commute with the help of local contractors. They reported they had plowed or sanded 75 percent of the city’s collectors and arterials as of 8 a.m. By 2:45, all had been plowed or sanded.

Later Wednesday City Community Relations Manager Joshua Romero sent out a statement saying city and contracted crews were out plowing residential streets with nearly 40 pieces of equipment.

“Contractors are prioritizing clearing public residential streets. City crews will sand problematic areas on public residential streets as staffing and resources allow,” Romero said.  “There may be areas that are icy prior to being sanded. Drivers are asked to use caution and drive slowly in these areas. Those with vehicles parked on residential streets are encouraged to move their vehicles off the street to allow the plows to clear the streets from curb to curb.”

The city crews will continue plowing through 10 p.m. tonight while the contractors will continue plowing residential streets until they’re all plowed.

Thursday, city crews will work throughout the holiday, from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The City of Redmond this year launched a website that shows you where the sanders and plows have been and how many trucks are out on the road at any given time.

More snow was on the way as the winter storm issued by the National Weather Service on Tuesday was expected to last until about 4 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

Central Oregon Daily Meteorologist Scott Elnes said the area should expect to see close to a foot of snow before the the system moved through. In the mountains, even more snow was falling – great news for Mt. Bachelor which announced plans to open lifts on Friday.

“With recent storms, Mt. Bachelor has accumulated 20 inches since 6 a.m. on Tuesday, allowing Mt. Bachelor’s operations team to prepare the West Village base area and Little Pine chairlift for Friday opening,” the ski area said in a statement. “The Little Pine chairlift is scheduled to run Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., serving the Home Run beginner trail with entry level Woodward Mountain Park features on slope.”

The Nordic center will also open with 10K of groomed trails and the Snowblast Tubing Park will be running too.

The mountain had planned to open on Friday with or without the new snow, offering a slew of family-focused activities dubbed “Hopening Day.”

As the snow settled in town, many Central Oregonians seemed to welcome the abrupt arrival of winter by heading outside for some sledding, peaceful walks and fat bike rides.

But as holiday travelers hemmed and hawed about when (and if) to head over the passes to visit family, ODOT urged caution and to “scout your route” to ensure a safe arrival for Thanksgiving.

Featured image courtesy ODOT




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