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C.O. snowstorm triggers numerous crashes, slide-offs, several highway closures

Hwy. 20 Tumalo grade crashes Matthew Korish 122
Matthew Korish
Numerous vehicles were involved in crashes on Hwy. 20 grade near Tumalo Friday morning
Terrebonne dogs watch snow Belen Rickman 122
Belen Rickman
Belen Rickman's two dogs watch the snow fall in Terrebonne Friday morning
Hwy 97 at 61st RDM Hwy 20 Sisters 122
ODOT TripCheck
ODOT TripCheck views showed snow across the High Desert Friday morning

(Update: More details, comments from drivers, Oregon State Police)

Several inches of snow fall over wide area

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A long-delayed blast of winter hit Bend and other parts of the High Desert on Friday, with several inches of snow leading to numerous crashes, rollovers and slide-offs, closing major highways at times.

“I’m very used to snow driving, I’ve got good tires -- and this is probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen," Bend resident Ashley Adams said.

The National Weather Service let a winter weather advisory expire at 6 p.m., after a few to several inches fell over a wide area of the region, making good forecasters' warning of slick roads and difficult travel.

“The snow kind of came on overnight, and I was expecting to be able to get home without a whole lot of crashes. But it’s not been that way," Adams said.

For Bend and other locations, it was the first measurable snowfall in weeks, if not months.

Earlier, a freezing fog advisory was issued until 10 a.m. Friday, with patchy areas of freezing drizzle/mist and/or light freezing rain meaning slick roads as well.

Oregon State Police Trooper Travis Tillman said, “I think the severity of the storm was significantly worse than what we had anticipated and was forecasted initially. And the duration of the snow that has come down has increased as well.” 

“This has been one the worst winter days I have worked, in one small period of time, all through Central Oregon," Tillman said.

Law enforcement, medics and tow trucks were scrambling to numerous vehicles that got stuck, crashed or went off the slick roads, including a Redmond school bus in a ditch at the corner of Highway 20 and Tweed Road west of Tumalo, prompting a call for a Class C tow truck.

That wasn't the only Redmond school bus to have trouble on slick roads Friday morning. Another Redmond bus, stopped at railroad tracks, was rear-ended by a pickup, school district spokeswoman Sheila Miller said. No students were on either bus and there were no injuries, she added.

One of the big early trouble spots was the grade on U.S. Highway 20 west of Tumalo, where ODOT TripCheck showed it was closed in both directions about 10 a.m. due to a multiple-vehicle crash. Two ODOT sanders were called out as first responders worked to clear the scene.

Highway 20 West was closed at Robal Road and the Old Bend-Redmond Highway until the crashes were cleared.

OSP Trooper Scott Sogge said 20 or more vehicles were involved in the crashes and slide-offs on Highway 20, eight to 10 of them semi-trucks, including driver Juan Duran.

"I saw him sliding," Duran said of the driver ahead of him. "I said, 'Obviously I'm going to stop.' It's slippery right there, where I stopped -- there was a car in front of me. That's where I started sliding sideways."

Later Friday morning, several more crashes and slide-offs closed state Highway 126 eight miles east of Sisters, in the area of milepost 100 and the Cline Falls Road bridge. OSP reported nine or 10 slide-offs and was turning vehicles around at midday.

ODOT Region 4 spokesman Peter Murphy said crews had traffic moving past the crashes and Highway 20 reopened before noon, with flaggers directing traffic. He said they would take similar steps to clean up and reopen Highway 126.

The snow tapered off at midday in some locations, but crashes still were being reported around the area and some law enforcement were urging people to stay home unless it was an emergency.

And the problems continued into the afternoon: About the time crews cleared and reopened Highway 126, a disabled vehicle closed Highway 97 two miles north of Terrebonne, late in the noon hour. (That took until late afternoon to clear).

At mid-afternoon, ODOT said a crossover crash closed both southbound lanes and the left ("fast") northbound lane of Highway 97 near milepost 125, about three miles south of Redmond. Those lanes reopened by about 4:30 p.m.

Redmond and Bend Fire medics responded to that two-vehicle crash just after 2 p.m., finding both vehicles with extensive damage. Two patients were removed from the wreckage and taken to St. Charles Bend, one with life-threatening injuries, Redmond Fire Captain Bill Welch said. He also noted that road and weather conditions slowed crews' response times.

Later Friday afternoon, another crash closed Highway 20 near milepost 94, six miles west of Sisters, and ODOT urged motorists to avoid the area if possible. It was open again before 5:30 p.m.

Earlier in the day, an NWS spotter 2 miles southeast of Bend reported three inches of snow by 7:30 a.m. Other weather spotters reported a half-inch to three inches of snow in the Bend area and lighter amounts around Sisters, La Pine, Madras and Prineville.

Several Bend residents on KTVZ's Facebook page reported having about three inches, if not four or more, while others reported six inches in Tumalo, three inches in Redmond, two inches at Crooked River Ranch, just over an inch in Prineville and two inches in the Juniper Canyon area, as it was still coming down.

Later Friday, a Tumalo resident reported (by tape measure) eight inches and a Terrebonne resident nine inches.

The Deschutes County Sheriff's Office warned of hazardous road conditions and said if drivers "have to be on the road, slow your speed" and allow extra time to get where you're going.

In another sign of COVID-19’s widespread impacts, NewsChannel 21 had received no details of any school or event closures, though Cascades East Transit announced it was shifting to snow schedules as of noon. (If you have any such updates you wish for us to share, please send to stories@ktvz.com or use the website’s Share tab.)

Central Oregon / News / Weather

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.

Comments

66 Comments

  1. If you look at the cameras in Redmond, you can see that they put down copious amounts
    of cinders, but if you look at the Bend cameras,I don’t see anything… Big surprise.

      1. We just drove from our house on the south end of town to the north end, and there are plenty of icy spots, but we didn’t see any wrecks, so that’s good.
        The snow is nice and dry, and there is good traction except in the areas where the city bladed the streets down too far and turned everything into a skating rink, and didn’t
        bother putting any rock down over the top. Every year they use less and less rock.
        Looking at the streets you would think that there is a shortage of cinders in C.O…

    1. I think someone still needs to tell the City of Sisters that it snowed! At 1-2pm, I saw an ODOT plow doing one pass on Cascade Ave. because they were clearing the highway, but nothing else in town has been touched as of 4pm.

    2. What ??? “Oregon State Police Trooper Travis Tillman said, “I think the severity of the storm was significantly worse than what we had anticipated and was forecast initially.” Really ??? So what says Bob Shaw as this is clearly a direct attack on his meteorological skills ! Oh My !

    1. Bwaahaaa! Well you can blame the crashes on all the Kovid Kalifornians who moved here over the last year and are now having to endure their first snowpocalypse. Good thing we have friendly and experienced locals such as sandman to impart his vast snow-driving expertise to them.

    2. Are you kidding bahaha? Must be new to Bend. Our kids go to school around here unless the roads are impassible, and they do recess, during no COVID conditions, down to 23 degrees. This is just snow, it is a mountain town. Welcome.

      1. Bahaha a mountain town? Batchelor is 18 miles away. They didn’t close schools around here unless there was 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground thats when the roads were impassible. Now theres a skiff of snow and the idiots come out making driving more dangerous than the conditions.
        Your kids can’t go outside and do recess below 23 degrees and during no covid conditions? What’s that supposed to mean? No I’m not new to move to bend and no I didn’t move here. And you?

  2. Sounds expensive, instead of just waiting around for the crashes to happen, i wonder if its cheaper (and simpler) to plow / deice / cinder our highways to begin with, like the rest of the snowbelt does
    🤔
    I know, i know- its my fault for “not being able to drive in these conditions,” apparently along with everyone else in central oregon
    🤦‍♀️

      1. TELL IT TO BLPSD COMRADE- how many of their buses crash every year and how many buildings do they let collapse from bad snow load management even though la pine gets many feet most years- youre right they need to take more personal responsibility and learn to drive
        🤠
        And yes send the school buses back to california
        🤠🤠🤠🤠🤣
        So much easier than just plowing correctly

      2. Been here 22 years. Worked at one of the ski areas for a few years. The roads mid day were a sloppy mess made worse by chain ruts (Redmond 97). Hwy 126 had multiple incidents.

        People driving too fast thinking their SUV/truck could manage the conditions or texting (think careless)

        One SUV was t-boned and as a result was facing the wrong way, wrong side of the road; 2 out of three vehicles not drivable (this around 2pm).

        You can be the best driver, know the conditions and still get in an accident. This is not about Californians this is about not paying attention. Providing room, assessment of the roads.

        Drive responsible or stay home.

    1. I had reservations at the coast this weekend. I put chains on in my driveway, left Redmond and got as far as the dry canyon. That’s where I turned around and went back home. I was prepared and would have been fine except for people like you who are not prepared or “able to drive in these conditions”.

      1. EXACTLY we live in a society where our actions and behaviors are completely interconnected at all times, you cant go to the coast even though you have total supremacy over all weather (and were planning on driving hundreds of miles with chains on at 20 mph 🙄🙄🙄🙄) because of OTHERS more negative experience with the weather and roads
        !
        Clearly being selfish didnt work for you today or indeed the rest of central oregon, thats why its time we work together and make sure the highways get cleared BEFORE these problems start, we can do better and most other snowy parts of the country consistently do- its clearly time to invest in better training and equipment for our road crews
        !
        Similarly you should take that coast reservation money you now have freed up, and use it to buy something much more effective and safer than chain, namely a set of snow tires, those of us who drive all winter long in snow zones will thank you for not holding up traffic

          1. You must be unusually courteous and pulling over frequently if you drive more than a few miles with chains on and don’t hold up traffic. Or you’re comfortable driving way over the recommended speed for chains.

            I’m all for people avoiding highways in ill-equipped vehicles under adverse winter driving conditions. But for normal passenger vehicles; chains are an extremely limited solution compared to snow tires and an appropriate vehicle.

        1. From the Bend City limits to the Bachelor parking lots are maintained by ODOT who does not get a dime from Powder Corp. Just your gas tax dollars at work.

    2. True story: I started doing 360s on Hwy 97 near Chiloquin a few years ago. Eventually hit an oncoming car at slow speed. When the trooper showed up, he said that they waited for the first crash before calling ODOT for cinders. Sure enough, a truck came by, and shot cinders all over my totaled car. I grew up as a skier in the Sierra Nevadas of California, and, at least then, they were much more proactive about clearing snow. They did not use cinders, though. Add to that, CO drivers are totally unprepared mentally and carwise, you get this result, lots of crashes. I mean, Hwy 20 near Tumalo is dangerous? Puhlease…

      1. “When the trooper showed up, he said that they waited for the first crash before calling ODOT for cinders”

        Last winter we saw four separate crashes on the new section of Murphy road in one day.
        Two of them happened at the corner before the Brookswood / Murphy roundabout.
        Cars were going too fast, and they hit the curb and ended up off the road. It has happened every year since they opened that new section of Murphy. The other two happened about half way between Brookswood and 3rd st. on a basically straight section of road. Same thing, people driving way to fast and hit the curb. One of the wrecks
        ended up hitting another vehicle that couldn’t stop in time…

        We had called the city and told them what happened, and that they needed to either spray or put down some rock, but no response. It was so slick that when BPD showed up, every cop that got out of their car almost fell down because they couldn’t stand up.
        Miraculously about 10 minutes later the sander came by and dribbled some rock on the road. That finally ended the crashes for the day. I know for fact that BPD was called for each of the four wrecks because we called them, and I’m sure other people did as well. It shouldn’t take four crashes in one area for the road crew to do something with the road…

  3. And lets be fair, i saw a bend city truck spraying mag on neff last night, hours before this started, but looks like odot really dropped the ball instead

  4. Hmm…. interesting because I drove in from Redmond to Bend this morning no problem and people were driving at least 50 plus. Did it get worse over the course of the morning because I didn’t think it was that bad at all.

      1. Wow… It amazes me how much Bend and C.O in general has changed over the years.
        It wasn’t that many years ago that this amount of snow wasn’t even considered
        newsworthy, and rightfully so, and they certainly wouldn’t have told people to stay home…. It’s really pathetic, especially when you look at the advancements in tire technology, and consider that almost all modern cars are at least front wheel drive,
        and in many cases all wheel drive…

        I’ve never worried about it because I’ve had four wheel drives with good tires on them since I started driving almost 43 years ago, but even a front wheel drive car with decent tires on it will go damn near anywhere if you don’t drive like an idiot, and no
        you don’t have to have studs, just decent tires…
        My wife had a Honda civic (front wheel drive) with good tires on it and that thing was an absolute mountain goat in the snow.

        1. You should worry. You can be the best driver and can’t control what others do. I’ve been here since ’91 and sure, many newcomers haven’t adequately prepared, that will always be the case. But we can’t go back 20-30 years, or wish to reverse time.

          1. I wonder if its just tire and car tech that has improved in 43 yrs? Looks like its about time for odot to figure out if plowing technology has advanced in the last few decades too, 4 inches should not shut down a three-county area with one of the nations biggest ski areas YIKES

          2. That’s true. In almost 40 years of driving truck, I’ve driven in some of the
            worst weather conditions imaginable, and I always made it, but there were
            certainly plenty of times when it was questionable if I would make it or not,
            and countless times that I was almost hit by cars that were out of control.
            I could write a book on the stupid things that I have seen over the years…
            The increase in population and the number of vehicles on the road certainly
            plays a part in that because it increases your odds of being involved in an accident, but to make matters even worse, many of the drivers today just don’t care…

  5. My name is beta male Bob. I moved to Bend from California with my Patagonia puffy coat. My hobbies include playing pinball with my Subaru in the snow and ruining your lovely little town 😁

    1. you do know all that alpha, beta… male stuff is total hooey, don’t you? – it was misquoted from sketchy research and subsequently debunked a long time ago – interesting reading – actual science stuff

    2. True story: about ten years ago, I was talking to someone from Prineville, and he told me his gripes about people from Bend. I asked him ‘how do you know they are from Bend?’…he said, ‘you know, the puffy coat people’…cracked me up.

      1. One of these days the twits doing 20mph with 5 miles of cars stacked on their butt will STOP making EVERYONE else pay for their incompetence. Teach yourself, Stay home, or go back the heck where you came from.

        1. Sandman has a little more hair on his chest than you. He would have said it like this, “TAKE YOUR ASS BACK TO THE HELLHOLE YOU CAME FROM BOY!”

          Ok go ahead, try it again…

  6. What I have is people tailgating in weather like this, well at any time to be honest. It does crack me up when someone stops suddenly and six cars rear-end each other. Usually they all get out of their cars and stand around scratching their heads. It is simple… give yourself enough time to stop safely incase the car ahead suddenly stops AND allow for the weather!

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