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Snow piles up ahead of sleet, freezing rain threat


The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Central Oregon Thursday morning, predicting not only heavy snow but a “wintry mix” of sleet and freezing rain as well.

Forecasters issued the warning through 10 p.m. and said the snow will continue into Thursday evening, with periods of freezing rain and sleet developing by evening “that will make travel dangerous.”

“Only travel in an emergency,” forecasters said. “If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.”

By early Thursday afternoon, two weather spotters west of La Pine reported eight new inches of snow since midnight, while a retired NWS employee in Bend recorded seven inches in that timeframe, as did a spotter at the Prineville Airport. Warm Springs reported five inches of snow.

The NWS also predicted up to two-tenths of an inch of ice accumulation.

Pacific Power reported nearly 1,100 customers on Bend’s Westside lost power Thursday morning, and said it was restored about 12:40 p.m.. The cause was under investigation, but utility spokesman Tom Gauntt said it was underground and thus not weather-related..

The returning snow quickly coated roads and sidewalks, many of which hadn’t been cleared of the snow from earlier in the week.

But it was the threat of a so-called “wintry mix” of freezing rain, sleet and snow or rain that had everyone on their toes about what was coming later in the day.

“Oh the weather outside is frightful — or at least it soon will be,” an NWS forecaster said in an online discussion.

They said the warm front approaching the region had brought 1-3 inches of snow, but as the front moves in, “warm air aloft will cause some freezing precipitation to fall” over the region before the Central Oregon snow levels rise to near 3,500 to 4,000 feet by sunset.

NewsChannel 21 Chief Meteorologist Bob Shaw forecast 3-6 inches of new snow over the next 24 hours, and while freezing levels will rise a bit, “this is not necessarily good news.”

With lows in the low to mid 20s and warm air aloft, a chance of overnight precipitation “could yield freezing rain by tomorrow morning. That on top of fresh snow has the potential to give us a very messy (Friday) morning commute.”

Several motorists reported in on the KTVZ Facebook page that most roads were in okay shape as the snow as falling Thursday morning, though slow going for many on the packed snow. A semi was reported stuck on Third Street north of Revere Avenue and later a slide-off on the Bend Parkway at the Colorado Avenue exit. Teresa Martinez said traffic was stopped on Highway 97 heading south into Bend from Redmond.

And the mess won’t end fast: The NWS has all four elements – “a chance of rain, snow, freezing rain and sleet” in the Friday morning forecast.

No school closures or delays were reported Thursday morning in Central Oregon — unlike the western part of the state, where the forecast snow and threat of icy freezing rain by afternoon prompted many Portland-area schools and most government offices to make early decisions to close for the day.

However, some event closures were starting to come in, including a canceling of Thursday night’s Deschutes Democrats meeting in Bend. Please send your closure, cancellation or delay announcements to

NWS forecasters said the Portland area would get a couple inches of snow, then switch to freezing rain for the evening commute. Higher accumulations were expected in the Coast Range and the Columbia River Gorge, where 5-10 inches were possible, especially from Cascade Locks east toward Hood River.

The snowy conditions also meant flight cancelations or delays around the region, some affecting Redmond Airport; before you head out, check the flight’s status online.

Shaw said temperatures will warm a bit Friday and through the weekend, meaning scattered, mixed showers before a bit of a cooldown going into next week and a continued chance of showers.

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