BEND, Ore. - Christmas week began with widespread snowfall over most of the High Desert Sunday, with several inches in most areas and slick roads contributing to numerous crashes, slide-offs and roll-overs, authorities said -- and another snowstorm is expected on Christmas Day.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, and said many areas south of Camp Sherman were seeing snowfall rates of an inch an hour for a time.
An NWS weather spotter north of La Pine reported about a half-foot of snow on the ground by Sunday afternoon, and another a mile outside of Bend reported nearly that much snow, as the snow tapered off and skies actually cleared a bit in Bend. Southwest of Sisters, 4-5 inches of snow had fallen in four hours.
In Bend, one of the midday trouble spots was Reed Market Road and the Billy Healy Bridge, where cars were having trouble climbing the hill to Century Drive. Another was hilly Neff Road, especially at the Purcell Boulevard intersection.
Like other agencies, Oregon State Police troopers were busy Sunday, responding to more than 30 crashes and vehicles sliding off the road along Highway 97 between Chemult and Warm Springs, as well as several other incidents on Highway 20W west from Bend to the Santiam Pass area.
Also, troopers said, two vehicles became partially trapped following a snow slide onto Highway 20 at Hogg Rock, an area notorious for such incidents. No one was injured, and both vehicles were driven from the scene after being removed from the snow that blocked the westbound lanes for about two hours.
Highway 97 in the Madras area became very icy Sunday afternoon. Troopers and local emergency responders responded to four roll-over crashes on a four-mile stretch south of Madras.
Troopers reminded all to make sure vehicles are prepared and equipped for winter driving conditions. Carry tire chains that fit your vehicle's tires if traveling any mountain pass or area where chains could be required. Know before you go by monitoring media reports and checking available information and resources for where you will be traveling at TripCheck.com.
Fortunately, the snow hit on a Sunday, when fewer folks were headed to or from work -- although late Christmas shopping took on a challenging tone, and those who were traveling for the holiday also faced some difficulties.
Fog, freezing fog reported in Redmond
As Greg Mikkelson Sr.put it on NewsChannel 21's Facebook page: "The blizzard has finally arrived." He said Redmond roads were getting pretty bad as well; Redmond Airport was reporting heavy snow in the late morning, compared to relatively lighter snow coming down at Bend Airport east of town.
Later Sunday, a new problem arose in the Redmond area -- thick fog, and the Redmond Airport was reporting light freezing fog, which could bedevil air travelers as well.
On the roads, meanwhile, ODOT had added crews with sanders and graders out to try to keep traffic moving and respond to areas such as icy highways and on-ramps.
Travel troubles also were arising around the state Sunday evening. Interstate 84 was closed eastbound for hours due to multiple crashes and "treacherous driving conditions," ODOT reported, but reopened by about 6:45 p.m. Sunday.
In southern Oregon, a 23-mile stretch of state Hwy. 230 (the Diamond Lake Hwy.) was closed due to numerous downed trees; ODOT said it could be Monday before crews clear the highway -- and again, there's no detour.
For those wanting to play in the snow, Mt. Bachelor reported 19 inches in 72 hours for an 86-inch base, though snow blown by wind gusts to 37 mph made for fairly low visibility on the slopes. Hoodoo Ski Area reported four more inches for a depth topping 78 inches.
But while the snow broke off and skies cleared Sunday afternoon, giving rise to a lot of shoveling of driveways and sidewalks, forecasters also said a white Christmas is pretty much a lock -- and they don't mean the snow already on the ground.
While the current winter storm warning was to expire at 6 p.m. Sunday, a new winter storm watch is in effect for Christmas morning through late Tuesday night.
"There will be a break between storms" on Monday (Christmas Eve), the NWS update said, "before the next round of snow returns Christmas morning" -- bringing another expected 6-10 inches of snow to the region.
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