The South Willamette Valley doesn’t often see the kind of winter weather that much of the rest of the country experiences. This most recent storm reminds us that it can and does happen every so often. Winter officially begins at 9:11 AM on Saturday December 21st with the Winter Solstice. The months of January and February have the highest probability for experiencing big winter storms due to the availability of Arctic air that can stream down through Canada and roll into the Pacific Northwest. One particular year stands out in my mind and that is the Winter of 1996. That was the year we were hit by a double-punch of weather. Late January sliding into February proved to be very wet. January set a record with 15.36 inches of rain at the Eugene Airport and then February set a new record of 16.89 inches. There was serious flooding on the Mohawk River. So much that it caused what was called a “30-year flood’ which is the worst flooding possible in a 30-year period.There was also extensive flooding on the Siuslaw River particularly near Mapleton. The heavy rain saturated the ground so much that the roots of even the larger trees were loosened. That set up a very dangerous situation. All that was needed to topple these trees would be a strong windstorm or a heavy wet snowfall. Snow it was. The rainfall total from February 16-25 at the Eugene Airport was 6.94 inches. During that same time period my rain gauge total was 4.55 inches. Needless to say that was a lot of rain for such a short span of time, especially for the Eugene/Springfield area. As I said that much rain loosened the tree roots and as luck, or lack of same, would have it heavy snow fell on February 27 th and 28 th. My snowfall total was 4.5 inches for the 27th and 3.25 inches on the 28th for a total of 7.75 inches of snow.
I have personal experience with just how heavy that snow was. A tree belonging to my neighbor behind me and up the hill behind my house was about 100 feet tall and fell the evening of th 27th. I was home for my dinner break after the early newscast then we heard a loud thud outside. The tree crashed through my back yard cedar fence and continued on to flatten the fence between my house and the neighbor next door. It ended up stretching across my street into the driveway of a neighbor across the street from me. Three weeks prior to that night we had our roof replaced and that tree missed hitting our new roof by only 5 feet. A week or so later when the neighbor behind me had someone come to remove the fallen tree from his property. The “tree expert” said the contractor that built their house apparently tried to save the tree and just cut out the roots on the high side of the hill where the foundation was laid. That was an accident waiting to happen. I came home after the late newscast and by the time I got ready for bed I had about an hour and a half or so to sleep before I had to get up so I could go back to work for the early AM news.
When I awoke I went to look out the window to see how much more snow fell when I saw something strange. There was a tree in front of my house near the roofline that had the roots come up and it fell across my yard ending up in the middle of the street. I was really shocked that it fell right by my mailbox and didn’t knock it down. I still have a healthy stack of wood I split from those two trees. The neighbor behind me told me to keep the wood from his tree that ended up on my property. Insurance didn’t cover my fence so I repaired it myself. It cost about $15.00 to patch it up. I’m not saying we will get another storm like that, but it is something we should be prepared for. Heavy rain followed by heavy winds or heavy snow always has the potential of being very bad.
The snowstorm we just experienced left ice and snow on the streets for a full week and caused school closures and even many business closures. I recorded a total of 8.5 inches of snow in my driveway at 600 ft. elevation.
My first Winter in Eugene started in January 1992 and that was a Winter that wasn’t. Before I got here there was a quick snow shower for Thanksgiving 1991 and then no snow at all for the Eugene/Springfield area for the entire Winter season.
Windstorms can be and have been very damaging in Western Oregon, On February 7, 2002 strong winds struck Coos Bay at 3:30 PM wind gusts measured to 95 mph. The storm hit Eugene around 4:15 PM with wind gusts up to 70 mph. Even Yoncalla recorded a 62 mph gust.
The best way to be prepared for any of these Winter weather events is to pay attention to what’s happening with the weather. If you know a storm is coming you can be appropriately prepared.
Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].