By News-Register staff • 

Winter storm brings ice, high winds

Rusty Rae/News-Register##Three large branches of this broad-canopy pine on Wilson Street sheared off in the Dec. 27 windstorm with one of the foot-wide branches coming to rest on a Ziply communications line. Outage was limited to one residence, but more repairs are in order. The 80-foot tree,  located between Cowls and Davis streets near downtown, is a complex of trunks with the utility line running between sections. Ziply crew chief Kevin Cook said Dec. 28 that the crew used a line truck to lift the branch and safely cut it loose without disconnecting the line. They also prevented pieces from falling on the truck parked in front of the residence. The impact on the line tugged and shifted a connecting wooden pole, at Cowls and Wilson, which also supports McMinnville Water & Light lines serving the neighborhood. The power pole had been damaged in the February 2021 ice storm and its top bears a wooden arm that holds wires running west across Cowls, a repair Cook said was intended as temporary.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##Three large branches of this broad-canopy pine on Wilson Street sheared off in the Dec. 27 windstorm with one of the foot-wide branches coming to rest on a Ziply communications line. Outage was limited to one residence, but more repairs are in order. The 80-foot tree, located between Cowls and Davis streets near downtown, is a complex of trunks with the utility line running between sections. Ziply crew chief Kevin Cook said Dec. 28 that the crew used a line truck to lift the branch and safely cut it loose without disconnecting the line. They also prevented pieces from falling on the truck parked in front of the residence. The impact on the line tugged and shifted a connecting wooden pole, at Cowls and Wilson, which also supports McMinnville Water & Light lines serving the neighborhood. The power pole had been damaged in the February 2021 ice storm and its top bears a wooden arm that holds wires running west across Cowls, a repair Cook said was intended as temporary.
Submitted photo##Shortly after power returned to customers on McCabe Chapel Road, west of McMinnville, this fire tree fell across a residential driveway, resulting in another 30 hours without power. No one was injured.
Submitted photo##Shortly after power returned to customers on McCabe Chapel Road, west of McMinnville, this fire tree fell across a residential driveway, resulting in another 30 hours without power. No one was injured.

Ice and wind storms led to treacherous driving conditions, fallen trees and power outages over the holiday weekend, but no major damage has been reported.

The back-to-back storms, coming at a time when many people are either scheduling vacations or trying to travel to see family, kept the county’s road crews working flat out for days.

“It kind of felt like a one-two punch. We’ve had worse ice storms and worse wind storms, but being close together was more challenging,” Road Division Manager Steve Sims said.

The county began putting down de-icer on Thursday, Dec. 22, trying to prepare, he said, and by that afternoon freezing rain was falling.

“Friday, we tried to sand the most traveled roads as best we could,” he said. However, freezing rain continued to fall off and on all day, and temperatures remained too low to thaw ice on the roads.

“Unfortunately the freezing rain, there’s not a lot a person can do. You can plow snow and whatnot, but the freezing rain’s just kind of here to stay, until it warms up and Mother Nature cuts us a break,” Sims said.

Many county residents, however, chose to stay home through the worst of the event, he said. “For the most part, I think people stayed put, which really helped us out a lot.”

Warmer weather arrived on Christmas Eve, but the break was short-lived. On Tuesday, rain and high winds arrived, with a high wind warning that gusts could reach as high as 65 miles per hour.

“It seemed like as soon as we got done with handling one tree in the road it was three more, and then you handled those three and it was three more,” County Public Works Manager Mark Lago said.

Sims said that with so many trees down across roads, crews weren’t able to finish clearing each one.

“Primarily with such a major event it was just to get one lane open, if it was completely blocked, and then later we could come back and clean it up,” Sims said.

McMinnville Water & Light reported 20 outages that impacted approximately 1,200 customers from the wind event Dec. 27, according to spokeswoman Trina McManus. In McMinnville, outages happened along Lafayette Avenue and in the Villard/Storey streets area east of Linfield University.

Power was restored by 1 a.m. in most areas and by 3 a.m. in the western hills except for one home in the Peavine Road area that was still without power by Dec. 28. (Their power returned later that day.) McManus said that home had damaged customer equipment that needed to be repaired by an electrician before the line could be re-energized.

No roads had to be closed as crews restored services in the hills west of McMinnville. There were few issues with large fallen trees. Instead, it was small branches that shorted lines and caused outages.

“Even small branches can cause problems,” McManus said.

One large downed tree on Hidden Hills Road fell across a driveway and damaged a fence shared by Doug and Kathleen Vergerin and their neighbors, but did not affect utilities.

“We were very lucky,” Kathleen Vergerin said, adding that they had coincidentally parked one of their cars on the road prior to the tree falling. Otherwise, they would have been blocked from leaving their property. By mid-day Wednesday neighbors worked together to clear the tree.

Wind speeds reached 61 miles per hour during the storm in McMinnville, according to the National Weather Service.

The county was still working to clear roadways on Wednesday, according to Sims.

“I would say the higher elevations definitely had more tree debris on the roads; we’ll be probably a week cleaning that off,” he said.

High water also blocked roads in many areas, Sims said on Wednesday.

“We’re fixing some erosion damage with graders and bringing more rock, where roads somewhat washed out. Today, we should have all the roads back open that we can; the other ones were just waiting on the power company to make it safe to get in there.”

Crews cleared blocked culverts to let the water drain where they could, he said, but in other cases simply had to put up detour signs, letting motorists know not to drive through the area.

“You never know. Chances are slim, but the road could be washed out under that water, and it could be a whole lot deeper than it seems,” he said, noting that it’s never a good idea to drive through flooded roadways.

“I’m real thankful for my crew, thankful for everyone out that helped us out,” he said.

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