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Winds rake High Desert: Trees fall, dust storm hits Hwy. 97

Outdoor debris burning closed; so is Mt. Bachelor

High winds hit high desert

BEND, Ore. - (Update: Adding more on Hwy. 97 dust storm, comments about wind)

Winds gusting to 40 mph hit Central Oregon Tuesday, toppling trees around Bend and to the south, triggering a dust storm and a reported multiple-vehicle crash south of Madras and prompting Bend-area fire officials to close outdoor debris burning after one burn got away off Gerking Market Road.

Winds gusted to 45 mph at Bend Airport shortly before noon, the highest so far after they began kicking off before dawn. Gusts reached nearly 40 mph at the Redmond and Madras airports in the early afternoon and hit 40 mph at Prineville Airport

"It's very windy, and it's starting to pick up rain as well," said Bend resident Adam Young."I don't think ‘very windy’ is the most accurate description, but I would say it's gale-force at this point. It's blowing me back, and I'm not a small dude.”

Zero visibility was reported for about a mile-long stretch of Highway 97 about five miles south of Madras at the noon hour, and drivers were urged to use extreme caution.

Jefferson County sheriff's deputies said they assisted Oregon State Police, Jefferson County Fire and Jefferson County EMS with the crash at South Highway 97 and Highland Lane, in which a large dust storm was "believed to be a contributing factor." 

OSP Sgt. Kyle Hove said the dust storm hit around 11:45 a.m. between milepost 101 and 102, with zero visibility for about a half-hour.

After a rear-end two-vehicle crash, a third vehicle became involved. Two people were taken to the hospital with injuries; Hove did not know the extent of injuries.

Near downtown Bend, no one was reported injured when a tree fell in a parking lot along Wall Street.

"I thought someone had T-boned my boss's truck, actually. That's what it sounded like, metal on metal,” said Young, who works nearby.

Later, another downed tree was reported blocking Waugh Road near Alfalfa Market Road east of town. Another report came in about 1:20 p.m. of a downed tree at Solar Drive and Merced Road, south of Sunriver.

Northwest of Bend, several engines from the Bend and Cloverdale fire departments were called out in the late morning to corral an apparent escaped debris burn off Gerking Market Road.

Outdoor debris burning in the Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District was closed at midday for the rest of the day due to the high winds. Such burning is always prohibited within the city limits of Bend, officials noted.

Wind gusts recorded topping 100 mph also kept Mt. Bachelor from opening Tuesday, though the resort expects to reopen Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a winter weather advisory was in effect until 9 p.m. Tuesday for the northern Oregon Cascades, with another 4-8 inches of snow possible, and 1-4 inches over the passes as the snow level drops from 5,000 feet to 3,500 feet.


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