In the community, Local government

Second approaching snow front prompts winter storm warning

ONTARIO – Just days after a major winter storm rolled over the valley, officials are bracing for another surge of snow set to hit late on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

The National Weather Service in Boise issued a winter storm warning from 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, for the lower Treasure Valley and the Owyhee Mountains.

With temperatures dipping to -8 in Ontario on Tuesday, Jan. 16, Les Colin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the area can expect up to 6 inches of snow beginning at 9 p.m. with snowfall lasting until 1 a.m.

The weather service forecasts temperatures as low as 13 around Ontario and a high of 29. 

With that, Colin said the weather could be “impactful” for travel.

“It would be a good idea to limit travel,” he said.

The weather service advises those who must travel to keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in their vehicles in case of an emergency.

Colin said it’s unclear if this recent storm has set a record for the area.

Heading into Wednesday, Colin said the area could see lighter snow mixed with freezing rain, which could also impair road travel.

Paul Woodruff, the manager of the state Transportation Department’s District 14, echoed Colin’s sentiments regarding travel. His message was the same as it was during last weekend’s storm: If you don’t have to travel, don’t.

“Just stay off the road,” he said.

Woodruff said the travel warnings – from the state Transportation Department, the weather service and the local media – paid dividends last weekend for his plow crews.

“Traffic was noticeably lighter than it typically is. So, it was a game changer because the more people you have out there, the more crashes you are going to have. It helped, it really did,” he said.

Woodruff said his plow crews were able to keep main roads – such as Interstate 84 and U.S. Highway 20 – open over the weekend.

“Overall it was kind of a normal winter storm for us. Everyone was working 16-hour days and we were able to stay up with it. Nobody got hurt, no major crashes and the highway stayed open,” he said.

During the weekend winter squall, Woodruff said 10 state snow plows in the area worked during the day and seven at night.

He said the same number of plows will be on duty with the next storm.

“We are just going to rinse and repeat on this one,” he said.

Mark Redmond, superintendent of the Malheur County Education Service District, said it’s possible local school districts could cancel classes Wednesday, Jan. 17.

He said each district would make the call early Wednesday.

Nick Ketterling, the Adrian School District superintendent, said canceling classes would depend on how much snow comes down and where. He said his goal is to make the call by 6 a.m. on Wednesday.

The Nyssa School District Superintendent, Ryan Hawkins, said he would confer with staff, including his transportation manager and others and likely make the call the night before.  

Hawkins said the decision to cancel classes is one that is not made lightly because of the hardship it poses on families that then must scramble to find child care. However, he said the district wants to make the best decision for the safety of kids.

Alisha McBride, Vale School District superintendent, said her goal is to give families as much notice as possible so that they can make arrangements should weather conditions prompt a cancellation.

Taryn Smith, Ontario School District communications coordinator, said the district typically makes the call to cancel before 5:30 a.m. on its website. She said the district would also announce the closure on its social media and communication system. 

Redmond said he would have a list of the school districts that will not be open no later than 6 a.m.

Meanwhile, the warming shelter set up by Malheur County at the fairgrounds served about 75 people with 21 staying overnight Monday, said Lt. Rich Harriman, Malheur County Emergency Services director.

He said a significant number of homeless are using the shelter during the day to get meals, a shower or just to get warm. Some of those people, he said, do not stay the night at the shelter.

Three hot meals – provided by the Hog Rock Café in Ontario – are provided each day, said Harriman. He said the shelter also now as all the volunteers it needs.

Harriman said the plan now is to close the shelter on Friday, Jan. 19, at noon.

“We will give them a hefty sack lunch on the way out the door,” said Harriman.

EDITORS NOTE: This article has been updated from its original version to reflect comments made by Taryn Smith, Ontario’s communications coordinator.

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