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Update: Many C.O. schools closed again

Others reopen or on two-hour delays, snow routes

BEND, Ore. - Despite progress in digging out from a major snowstorm, the Redmond School District decided Thursday evening to cancel classes for a third day Friday, followed by Sisters and Jefferson County, who made the closure call early Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County School District 509-J said it would delay Friday's classes by two hours and Culver schools were open, with buses on snow routes. St. Thomas Academy and Central Christian School in Redmond and Sisters Christian Academy also announced they would be closed Friday.

High Desert Montessori said it was opening on a two-hour delay "to give us time to de-ice the sidewalks!  This means-no before school care, we will open at 9 a.m.  Aftercare is on a regular schedule although we do encourage parents to pick up as early as they can to get home safely."

Other schools, including Bend-La Pine, were open and getting back to normal after two days of closures - and just before the holiday break.

Saturday cancellations also have begun to arrive, such as the Redmond Public Library's planned afternoon visit by the Central Oregon Showcase Choir.

If you have any school, office or event closures or delays to report, please email stories@ktvz.com.

Redmond schools offered a lengthy explanation why they were going to stay closed on what would have been the last day of school before Christmas break, when the snowfall ended about 24 hours earlier:

“We are writing this evening to let you know that all RSD schools will be closed tomorrow due to the effects of the recent winter snow storm. We recognize that closing schools causes an inconvenience for our families, and we do not take these decisions lightly. We hope notifying you this evening will allow you the time to better make plans for your student and family tomorrow.

“Making the decision to close our schools was difficult, and we spent much of the day weighing all of the factors that go into making such a decision. We know many of you spent the day digging yourself out of your driveways, just as our crews did their best to clear parking lots and sidewalks.

“City, county, and state crews, as well as private contractors, worked throughout the night and day to clear roads. Despite everyone's best effort, there are still neighborhood streets and rural roads that are still difficult to navigate.

“RSD is a geographically large district, and with a storm of this magnitude, it is incredibly difficult to ensure all of our students and families have safe routes to school. Unfortunately, many of the outlying areas in our district are facing some treacherous travel conditions.   

"Everyone's safety remains our primary concern, and as such we feel it is best to cancel school tomorrow. Please accept our apologies for any inconveniences this may cause. We understand the impact decisions such as this have on our students, our families, and our staff.

"Some of you may be wondering if we will need to make up these days we have lost to the storm.  The Oregon Department of Education requires a set amount of instructional hours each school year. We are still above the required amount of hours even without these three days, so we will not need to make them up. "

In other announcements, the Sisters High Desert Chorale's annual Christmas concert is canceled, but only for Friday; a Sunday afternoon concert will go on as scheduled.

The High Desert Museum canceled its special after-hours event Friday due to concerns over road safety and weather conditions.

Flights resumed Thursday at Redmond Airport after Wednesday's storm-caused cancellations. But officials still urge travelers to check with their airlines before heading out, as some flights still may be delayed or canceled -- and to allow extra time driving to the airport.

But Central Oregon was not alone: Schools across Oregon were closed Thursday due to the snow and ice that hit many regions of the state.

In a Thursday morning update, ODOT warned motorists from the Willamette Valley and Coast Range to the Cascades to "expect very icy and slick conditions" in the wake of the storm.

"While ODOT crews have plowed and sanded many state highways overnight, the frozen precipitation from yesterday's storm has caused extensive snow-packed and black ice conditions. Motorists should expect a very slow drive to almost anywhere. The best advice is to not use the roads this morning.

"However, for those who must travel, be prepared for delays, plan for your travel by leaving lots of extra travel time, carry chains and know how to use them, pack an emergency kit that includes blankets and extra water, make sure your cell phone battery is fully charged and check TripCheck.com for the latest road conditions."

The fierce winter storm moving in from the south dumped a foot or more of snow across Central Oregon on Wednesday, also triggering a series of snow slides that blocked U.S. Highway 20 west of Santiam Pass well into the night.

The first two snow slides were reported in the slide-prone area of Hogg Rock, about two miles west of the pass summit, shortly after 2 p.m. and around 3 p.m.

Oregon State Police Captain Bill Fugate, who was in the area when the slides hit near Hoodoo Ski Area, said they were working to get traffic moving again, and that no injuries were reported.

ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy had said the first one was a relatively small slide and that while it blocked travel in both directions, it was expected to be cleared in about 40 minutes. But the battle to clear the snow went on as darkness approached; OSP tweeted around 5:30 p.m. that the road was open again and thanked ODOT crews for their hard work -- but another slide occurred two hours later.

Slides usually happen in the spring, after all the winter snow has fallen.

"This is pretty uncommon, to have a slide on Hogg Rock at this point in time," ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy explained. "You know, we're not even into winter yet -- technically the calendar says it's still fall. So to have a slide up at Hogg Rock is probably in the unusual category. I've never heard of it before at this time of year."

The Linn County Sheriff's Office said yet the third avalanche closed Santiam Pass near milepost 79 around 7:45 p.m. The agency it was assisting OSP and ODOT with the slides, motorists needing assistance and vehicles blocking the highway amid heavy snowfall. Once again, no injuries were reported.

Deputies also reported a semi-truck blocking part of the highway, limiting it to one lane of travel. Officials warned motorists they could be stranded if they travel over the pass.

Check the latest situation and road conditions across the state at our ODOT TripCheck page.

By mid-afternoon, National Weather Service storm spotters and observers reported up to a foot of snow over wide areas of the region, with a 14-inch report north of La Pine, and many places reporting an inch of snow in an hour.

Later came a 21-inch new-snow tally from a weather spotter 5 miles north of La Pine, while Heidi Owen on Huntington Road, between Sunriver and La Pine, reported having "over two feet and counting" Wednesday evening.


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