By Pat Caldwell
ONTARIO – Winter is coming, and area residents need to be prepared.
That was the main theme of the Malheur County Emergency Management Team meeting last week.
The session, held at the Oregon Department of Human Services offices in Ontario, included representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Owyhee Irrigation District, Malheur County Health Department, emergency services workers and city managers from Vale, Ontario and Nyssa.
Jay Breidenbach, a meteorologist at the Boise office of the National Weather Service, told the group that the first part of the winter – roughly October, November and December – will deliver warmer than normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.
Breidenbach emphasized that conclusion is an estimate.
That’s because, he said, the further out weather predictions go, the less precise they are.
“That probably means rain, depending on the weather. It could be snow but it would be wet snow. That’s better than last year’s weather outlook at this time,” said Lt. Rob Hunsucker, Malheur County emergency services director.
The main message team wanted to convey to area residents was the unpredictability of winter.
“Right now the forecast doesn’t look as bad as last winter. But it is too early to tell for sure,” said Hunsucker.
He said winter could start out slow and then change and trigger the type of storms that hit the county in January.
“Last winter we really didn’t get nailed until January. Our biggest problems started on the eighth of January,” said Hunsucker.
Mother Nature delivered a series of severe winter storms that rolled over the county. The storms, combined with cold weather, dumped a record-breaking amount of snow that damaged public and private structures across the county.
“I think after last winter everyone is a little shell-shocked,” said Breidenbach.
If the valley wasn’t prepared in January, people like Nyssa City Manager Jim Maret want them to be ready this winter.
Maret said his city crews are already busy laying the groundwork for another severe winter.
“We are preparing for the worst,” said Maret.
That includes the city acquiring a magnesium chloride tank for use on icy local roads.
Hunsucker said residents shouldn’t wait until the first snowflake appears to get ready.
“We need to get prepared for this starting now. Prepare the resources you are going to need,” Hunsucker said.
Residents can get ready, Hunsucker said, by clearing gutters around the home or by investing in heat tape for roofs.
The winter could come in like a lamb and leave like one but Hunsucker said it pays to be careful.
“Plan for the worst and hope for the best,” said Hunsucker.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377
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