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Remembering ‘Snowmageddon,’ Central Oregon’s snowy winter of 2017

(Update: adding comments from meteorologist Bob Shaw)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Snowfall returned to Central Oregon Wednesday, leading to several crashes and school closures and delays. 

But this year's off-and-on winter and skimpy, then heavy snowfall isn't as crazy as some of Central Oregon's past very snowy winters, including ones recent enough for many residents to recall.

If you were living here in 2017, you may recall the significantly snowy winter known to many as 'Snowmageddon.' A little over seven years ago, the gym roof collapsed at Highland Magnet at Kenwood School in Bend.

Former NewsChannel 21 Chief Meteorologist Bob Shaw, who forecast Central Oregon winters for more than two decades, remembers that morning well.

"The accident at Kenwood when the roof collapsed happened either right toward the end of the show or just after the end of our morning show.” he said.

"There were a lot of panicked people, because had that happened and just 30 minutes later, 20 to 30 minutes later -- there would have been over a hundred kids in that gym.” Shaw said.

Other Bend-La Pine schools closed that week to clear heavy snow off roofs, and other buildings in the area had similar roof failures. 

Later, the Redmond and Sisters school districts joined in. A few days of no school turned into a few weeks.

A few days before the gym roof collapse, Bend saw nine inches of snowfall on January 9th. This was followed by six more inches of snow the next day, and seven more inches on January 11th. On the day the gym collapsed, Bend received half an inch more of snow. for a total of 22.5 inches of snowfall piling up.

"Cheryl and I have lived here for over 40 years, and we've seen what I would call bad winters on about five or six winters during that time -- that was one of them.” Shaw said.

The school's gym wasn't the only building whose roof couldn't withstand the snow. The former KorPine mill in the Old Mill District and the roof of the former Ray's Food Place on Century Drive also collapsed that month.

The Kenwood Elementary gym's roof was built back in the 1950s. With the adoption of building codes in the late '60s, Bend roof systems are required to support 25 pounds per square foot, equating to about 20 inches of snow.

Although 2017 was a heavier snow season, the winter of 1973-74 holds the record for highest yearly total of snow for Bend, at 90.6 inches.

Article Topic Follows: Weather

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Jillian Fortner

Jillian Fortner is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jillian here.


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