In the community

Snowy, freezing weather snarl roads, prompt county to open warming shelter

ONTARIO – Winter rolled full force into Malheur County last weekend, bringing nearly a foot of snow and triggering an all-out effort by city, county and state crews to keep roads open.

Snowplow crews attacked area roads and Interstate 84 beginning Saturday as the temperature plummeted.

On Friday, Jan. 12, the temperature dropped to about 18, with the high hitting 32. Saturday, Jan. 13, the temperature dipped to 8 degrees, while the high was just 21. Sunday, Jan. 14, the temperatures fell to 8 degrees and the highs were 36.

Early Monday, Jan. 15, the temperature was 1 degrees, as the National Weather Service predicted a high of 20 degrees, partly cloudy skies, and a 20 percent chance of snow. Over the weekend, Malheur County saw up to 10 inches of snow.

Authorities across the state urged people to stay home and avoid driving on slick roads and highways.

On Sunday, Jan. 14, Interstate 84 westbound was closed between Ontario and Baker most of the evening because of ice and snowy conditions, according to Tripcheck. The Oregon Department of Transportation reported the road was open again around 8 p.m.

Eastbound Interstate 84 between Ontario and La Grande also was closed late Friday for several hours due to multiple crashes.

Early Saturday, the Oregon Department of Transportation reported that U.S. Highway 26 was closed after a truck slid off the road. The highway was reopened by afternoon.

The storm disrupted some local high school sports on Friday. The Jordan Valley and Adrian girls basketball games were canceled after the power went out. Power was restored around 12:30 a.m., and the games were to be rescheduled.

Crews from Ontario’s city public works department plowed roads Saturday and managed to keep up with the snow deluge, said Dan Cummings, Ontario city manager.

“They worked all night long to get the roads cleared. By Sunday morning most of it was cleared except for some of the side roads. They did a good job,” said Cummings.

The freezing temps prompted Malheur County to open a temporary warming shelter at Girvin Hall on the Malheur County Fairgrounds.

Lt. Rich Harriman, Malheur County Emergency Services director, said the shelter could stay open until Friday, Jan. 19, or longer if freezing temperatures continue.

On Sunday, Harriman said there were 11 people in the shelter.

The shelter was seeking volunteers to help, and offered free rides to the shelter by calling 877-875-4657 or 1-866-698-6155 or 711. Those who wish to volunteer can contact Tristin Wishard, at 541-212-1273 or 541-823-3230.

The shelter also had space available for local community nonprofits, such as Community in Action, to offer services, Harriman noted. People seeking shelter were allowed to bring pets, “as long as they stay with their owners and are penned up,” he said.