SALEM, Ore. — After a slow start, wintry weather has walloped Oregon, with the snowpack surpassing the norm by as much as 160 percent in some parts of the state and Gov. Kate Brown declaring an emergency Thursday in 10 counties.
Brown directed the Oregon Office of Emergency Management to coordinate the deployment of the state transportation department, state police, and the Oregon National Guard to support local communities as needed.
Since early February, the snowpack rose from 70 percent of normal statewide to 119 percent of normal as of Thursday, according to Scott Oviatt, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Center. It is already helping to alleviate a drought that affected much of the state, with its severity classification in southern and central Oregon reduced this week, Oviatt said.
“Cold air from Canada and moisture from the Pacific Ocean combined to create this,” Oviatt said. “In the last three weeks, cold air has infiltrated the entire state.”
Warm, dry air could wipe out the drought mitigation benefits quickly with a fast runoff, or rain on top of snow could cause flooding, Oviatt said, but the forecast over the next 8-14 days was for cold temperatures.
“We’re cautiously optimistic and hope the trend continues,” Oviatt said.
The belated blast of winter has hit communities with heavy snow and ice accumulation, high winds, flooding and landslides, the governor’s office said.
Heavy snow in Springfield caused the roof of a gym at Thurston High School to partially collapse Wednesday, The Register-Guard of Eugene reported. There were no injuries.
A town in the Cascade Range experiencing a prolonged blackout has been struggling. Oakridge was the town where an Amtrak train was stranded for about 36 hours this week because of fallen trees and snow on the tracks. The passengers had electrical power while the town didn’t and they stayed on board. Passengers saw townspeople on snowshoes making their way through snow-blanketed streets.
Ray’s Food Place in the town of 3,200 people is open, but customers navigate the darkened aisles with flashlights, the Register-Guard reported. Payments are accepted only in cash or local check, with credit card machines down.
Most businesses in town were closed Wednesday in the town which lies along Highway 58 that goes over Willamette Pass and to a ski area there. The road has been closed to regular traffic with downed trees lining the roadside.
The highway closure and the power outage are a “double whammy,” said resident Tim Foster.
“It just takes away any of hope of being able to do anything,” Foster told the Register-Guard, whose reporter was escorted to the town Wednesday by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
In Central Oregon, which has 113 percent over normal snowpack, an off-road enthusiast has been missing for four days, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Jeremy Taylor, 36, of Sunriver, was last seen getting gas on Sunday in Sunriver, a resort community south of Bend.
“He is known to frequent the forested area to the west of Sunriver where he enjoyed off-roading. However, it is unknown where he was going after getting gas in Sunriver on Sunday,” the sheriff’s office said.
Brown made the emergency declaration for Coos, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, and Marion counties.