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by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The city of Wilsonvilles Willamette River Water Treatment Plant might have developed ice, but the city remained relatively free of ice- and cold-weather related troubles during the recent record-setting weather. The mercury might have dipped to historically low levels in Wilsonville in recent weeks. But the virtual lack of precipitation meant a much easier ride for local residents, governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations.

“We’re very, very busy right now just with demand and the holidays with people in need, that adds more pressure,” said Lani Snyder of Wilsonville Community Sharing, which runs the Wilsonville Food Bank and offers programs and services for those in need. “But as far as weather-related issues, we haven’t seen anything yet, and that’s great news.”

While Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue reported responding to more than 100 calls for service related to the weather in Washington County alone during the week of Dec. 4-11, the city of Wilsonville reported no serious damage to public infrastructure caused by frozen pipes or other typical casualties of winter weather.

“There have been some frozen pipes and some broken freeze plates on the (water) meters,” Wilsonville Public Works Director Delora Kerber said. “And as they’re coming in we’re addressing them as quickly as we can. We’re checking the conditions of the roads, and there are certain spots around the city we’re keeping an eye on, but we haven’t gotten out our sander yet. For the most part, it’s gone well.”

The big freeze started Dec. 5, when temperatures dipped into the 20s in the Willamette Valley, and lasted through Dec. 11 when temperatures finally climbed back above the freezing level for a substantial portion of the day. Shiny new ice coated the surface of virtually everything, but the roadways remained generally clear of black ice and there were very few weather-related emergencies reported as a result.

At the same time, new forecasts for “freezing fog” circulated and kept city crews on their toes, Kerber said.

“To the north of the city, for whatever reason, there seems to be almost a micro climate,” she said. “It sort of hovers there, so right now with the potential for freezing fog there’s the areas to the northern part of the city that could become slippery and we keep an eye on it as the day goes through. We have staff on call at night, but we really haven’t had too many issues right now.”

Wilsonville Chief of Police James Rhodes praised local drivers for using restraint on potentially slippery road surfaces throughout the cold spell.

“Drivers have been responsible, and we’ve seen nothing out of the ordinary,” Rhodes said. “Public works and (Oregon Department of Transportation) have been doing a good job taking care of the streets and highways. We’re in good hands right now, and I’ll give credit where credit is due, our drivers have been responsible and kept their speeds low. Public works are on top of it, with the deicing and other stuff and ODOT is taking good care of the Interstate.

“I do have concerns about (last Thursday) and as we transition back above freezing,” he added. “It may result in freezing rain and I hope drivers continue to be careful.”

His prediction was right, as the West Linn-Wilsonville School District declared a two-hour late start and canceled all kindergarten due to icy morning conditions on Thursday.

South Metro Area Regional Transit Director Stephan Lashbrook said that as cold as the weather has been, at least Wilsonville did not experience the type of snow flurries and ice-covered roads seen in the southern part of the Willamette Valley.

“We really don’t have anything to report,” Lashbrook said. “We came through the bad weather in pretty good shape, but we’re pretty glad we don’t provide service south of Salem, because it was pretty nasty down there. But even our buses going to and from Salem didn’t have any big problems, so we came through it all right and we’ll keep those buses ready for next time and we’ll try to be ready with whatever the weather throws our way.”

Institutions that did experience trouble as a result of the weather included local schools, with Wilsonville High School and Boones Ferry Primary School both experiencing issues with frozen pipes and Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in north Wilsonville also experienced a breakdown in its wastewater disposal system and was forced to bring in portable toilets as a result.

Buildings are not the only thing damaged by the weather. When it comes to the human side, Snyder said that while Wilsonville Community Sharing may not have seen a spike in requests for emergency assistance, that is no guarantee that people remain free of need.

“A lot of our people double and triple up,” Snyder said, referring to the practice of sleeping on the couches or even chairs of other people or relatives, or even in vehicles. “I’m not saying we don’t notice people being homeless, but for statistical purposes, they’re not really labeled homeless if you double or triple up. We’re definitely seeing that, but we haven’t had anything where people are asking for warming shelters or anything like that.”

In case of continued freezing weather, Clackamas County has seen the opening of up to four warming shelters, including one at Rolling Hills Community Church just off Interstate 205 near West Linn. Others can be found in Molalla, Oregon City and Clackamas.

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