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Snowstorm buries Prineville


Local snowfall total ranged from 10 to 15 inches, requiring round-the-clock plowing

by: LON AUSTIN - A vehicle drives past a mound of plowed snow on Sunday morning following the storm.

Some have called it “Snowpocolyspse” or “Snowmageddon.”

Call it what you will, the massive snowstorm blew through Oregon burying Crook County and many other communities in its wake.

On Friday afternoon, modest snowfall gave way to heavier snow in Prineville that accumulated in a hurry. By Saturday morning, local residents were reporting nine inches of snow, and Mother Nature wasn’t done yet. By mid-morning the heavy snowfall resumed, dumping at least another three inches by early afternoon.

Based on official measures kept by the National Weather Service in Pendleton, Prineville ended up with 10 to 15 inches of snow, depending on location. It shattered the old four-day snowfall record for the Feb 7-10 timeframe, and ranks among the most substantial snowstorms the community has seen.

“It’s probably not a record-setting storm,” said Rob Brooks, a hydro-meteorological technician. He cited 24-hour snowfalls of 13 inches in 1973 and 6 inches in 1983 as examples of harder-hitting storms. At the same time, he considers the storm historically noteworthy for Prineville.

“It’s definitely a significant amount of snowfall,” he said.

The City of Prineville and Crook County road crews can certainly attest to that. From Thursday through Sunday, snowplow operators worked around the clock to keep up with the snow.

City Street Supervisor Scott Smith said that eight city crew members worked 18 hours Friday, 12 hours Saturday, and 12 more hours Sunday to keep roads clear.

“Our number-one goal over the weekend, during the event, was doing whatever was necessary to get every street passable for fire, ambulance, and emergency services,” he said. “It’s a real challenge. We had our whole crew out with the exception of three people.”

Because the snow came so quickly at times, the crews found themselves returning to streets they already cleared once before.

“We have 113 miles of street and in three days, we covered all of that and about a third of that we did three times,” Smith said.

The county road department found themselves in a similar situation. County Road Master Penny Keller said she split her staff into three groups to enable them to clear roads on a continual basis during the storm. Each crew worked in 12-hour shifts, then took 10 hours off as the next shift took over.

Keller has worked for the county for 15 years and can only recall one other storm during that timeframe that demanded so much snow removal in such a short time. That particular storm hit the Paulina area hardest, while this one hit hardest in the Powell Butte and Prineville area.

Smith, who has worked for the city for 26 years, only remembers one other time where this much snow covered Prineville, and it accumulated over 30 days instead of four.

By Sunday morning, when the storm had finally relented, children could be found turning snow piles into makeshift sledding hills or other snow structures. Meanwhile other residents, armed with snow shovels ventured outdoors to begin the tiring task of unburying their driveways, sidewalks, and vehicles.

In the days ahead, local residents can expect a reprieve from storm. Snow should slowly melt away as temperatures are expected to eclipse 40 degrees throughout the week, with rainfall possible.