30 inches bury the county


Historic snowstorm

by: SANTANA LANTZ - One of the more dramatic of several snow-caused accidents sent this semi off U.S. Highway 97 just east of Madras. The driver was transported to St. Charles Madras with minor injuries, according to a report from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.Last week's snow storm, which dumped about 30 inches of snow in areas of the county, by all accounts seems to have been the storm of the century.

Records from the National Weather Service in Pendleton, which date back to 1909, show a record of 14 inches of snow on Feb. 12, 1986, followed by another 3 inches the next day, and a tying record of 14 inches on Jan. 11, 1998, followed by four more inches the next day.

"It was a fairly significant snowfall all around," said Rob Brooks, a meteorologist in Pendleton, noting that Madras reported 18 inches on Saturday, Feb. 8, and another 4 inches on Sunday, for a total accumulation of 22 inches.

But, at the Madras Municipal Airport, Rob Berg, airport manager, saw much deeper snow. "We had 30 inches on the ramp on Saturday, when we started plowing," he said. "We've been plowing ever since to try to get out of this mess."

Berg said that the airport had been closed for two days, which is extraordinary. "Usually, when we're closed, we're closed at night and able to have it open the next day," he said.

Since his family moved to Madras in 1977, Berg noted, "We've had several storms, but we've never had this much in that short of time."

With the help of a city snowplow, Berg expected to reopen the airport at 4 p.m. Monday. "We had to wave one off today," he said. "If they land in that snow, it's going to automatically flip the plane over."

Both School District 509-J and Culver School District closed schools on Friday and Monday due to the snow storm, and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs closed its offices on Monday to ensure that buildings were safe.

Unless they had a heavy-duty four-wheel drive vehicle, most area residents had trouble getting out of their driveways, much less getting to town over the weekend. Some locals, including Miriam Fisher and her dad, Steve Fisher, got creative to get to town during the worst of the storm on Saturday.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Miriam Fisher, of Madras, and her father, Steve, skied from their home in northeast Madras to downtown on Saturday, during the height of the snowstorm that blanketed all of Central Oregon."Our cars couldn't leave the driveway and cabin fever was setting in," said Miriam Fisher, who skied into town. "We wanted to see what the town looked like and skiing seemed like a lot more fun than walking."

City and county public works departments worked furiously to clear roads around the city and county.

"We started plowing a little bit late in the afternoon on Thursday," said Mike McHaney, director of the county department. "Friday was about 10 hours of plowing, with four snowplows and five motor-graders. We cover from Camp Sherman to Ashwood."

Crews worked from 13-19 hours over the weekend. "Saturday, it was snowing so hard that some of the roads we did early didn't look like they'd been plowed," said McHaney, who cleared roads along with his crews. "Up on the plains, it was so foggy, you almost got vertigo; all you could see were the power poles."

McHaney said that crews plowed the north-south roads first, and then returned on Sunday to plow the east-west roads.

"This was the most snow that I've seen in 16 years," he said, adding that the crews even assisted in plowing driveways for medical emergencies. "We had a lot of young guys that did a really good job."

Neighbors have continued to help neighbors throughout the storm and its aftermath.

The city has been steadily plowing snow since Friday night, had five crews running on Tuesday, according to Jeff Hurd, director of the Madras Public Works Department.

Eleven employees, including Hurd were working on five different crews: a snow blowing crew picking up snow along the city's primary snow routes and the downtown area; two graders crews working the north side of town from B Street north, and the south side, from B Street south, to open up every street and allow access to homes; a snowplow crew working narrower roads; and a skip tractor crew clearing cul-de-sacs and catch basins.

Hurd expressed gratitude to Deschutes Valley Water District, which contributed a loader and a grader, with operators. "I would like to give a special thanks to DVWD coming to our rescue and providing us with trucks and equipment," he said.

City residents are asked to park their vehicles in driveways and parking lots to enable crews to clear roadways. "We ask that citizens of the community have patience with us," he said. "We know you need snow cleared and we will be there as fast as we can."

On Monday, Carl Stanley, of High Chaparral, praised the work of Melvin Fiskas, who opened up roads in the area. "Without him, none of us would be going anywhere," said Stanley. "If you're off the beaten path, you're SOL."

Stanley said that Fiskas had been working over the weekend to clear Southwest Chinook and Kokanee lanes and Southwest Rose Street, but refused to accept offers of pay. "People are so grateful around here," he said. "You don't meet people like that very often."