Oregon Community Cut off by Snow

Snow crushing the roofs
Weight of Snow crushing the roofs

An off-grid village of 150 souls in Oregon is running out of food due to the severe snowstorms in the area.  And there is a severe threat of the weight of snow collapsing roofs.

County commissioners declared a local state of emergency around Prineville near Bend,OR yesterday after being pummeled with feet of snow for weeks. But now, county resources are drained and they need state help, said county emergency preparedness coordinator Vicky Ryan.

Ryan said Juniper Acres, an isolated, off-the-grid community south of Prineville, is county officials’ main concern. The community of about 150 has been cut off from emergency resources due to snow-blocked roads, which the county does not maintain, she said.

Crook County officials have asked the state for money, equipment and manpower to help plow rural roads that the Central Oregon county does not maintain in the area 30 miles north-east of Bend.

Some roads have reportedly been covered in snow drifts up to 8 feet deep. Crook County Judge Seth Crawford tells The Bulletin newspaper they’re impassible and people who live in neighborhoods including Juniper Acres and Prineville Lake Acres can’t leave to get supplies. Some may be running low on food and heat.

Maya Bamer lives in Juniper Acres subdivision, southwest of Prineville. She says snowmobiles are being used to deliver donated goods to snowed-in families.

a large portion of the shut Woodgrain Millwork plant in Prineville collapsed last Sunday morning, four days after another part of the roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. And a Tumalo youth ranch’s arena also collapsed from wet, heavy snow — but fortunately, no injuries occurred in either case.

“My husband and I were just outside playing in the snow with our kids and heard what sounded like an earthquake,” Jennie Quinn of Prineville told NewsChannel 21. “The rest of the Woodgrain Mill collapsed!”

This time, photos showed the walls also had fallen, not just the roof, leaving large holes exposed to the elemets.

Another area resident said Sunday’s collapse on the northeast corner of the complex of connected buildings blew sawdust and small debris across Peters Road, prompting a closure in case more of the structure fell at the 83-acre site, which the Idaho firm has up for sale.

The heavy snow also caused a collapse of the indoor arena at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch on Innes Market Road in Tumalo.

“It’s a total loss,” CEO/Founder Troy Meeder said of the 9:30 a.m. collapse. “We have close to $500,000 of equipment now buried under snow, wood and twisted metal.”

But it could have been worse: Just “a few minutes before,” Meeder said, as one of her team was parking a tractor inside after use. Another team member and his 2-year-old son “were just gearing up to get out one of the tractors to move snow.”

“The building collapsed while neither was inside — thank you, Jesus!” she wrote.

Early last Wednesday, another portion of the Woodgrain Millwork roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, causing no injuries but triggering a natural gas leak, officials said.

A passer-by called dispatchers around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday to report a smell of natural gas on Peters Road, said Crook County Fire and Rescue Chief Matt Smith.

Responding fire crews found a portion of the roof had collapsed at the facility, where another section of roof collapsed in November 2014. That collapse was a major factor in the Idaho company’s decision to lay off remaining workers and close the facility about a year ago. The property is now up for sale.

House Republican Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, says he’s been assured by the governor’s office and state agencies that residents who may be in danger will get assistance.

 If an emergency is declared, it’s likely that Oregon Department of Transportation personnel and equipment would be sent to Crook County, not the National Guard, said Office of Emergency Management spokesman Cory Grogan.

The Central Oregon area has been impacted by significant snowfall since the beginning of December. Records from the National Weather Service show Central Oregon received its first snow December 6. Substantial amounts of snow have fallen throughout the region. The National Weather Service has provided accumulations for Bend (approximately 50”) and Sunriver (approximately 52”). Normally we see periods of warmer weather to melt the snow between storms. The cold weather has prevented snow melt, which has caused the snow to accumulate.

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