Depending on your responsibilities, substantial snowstorm proves a blessing or a curse.
From a fireside or bedside perch, East Multnomah County may have appeared completely disrupted by a deluge of snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, the third wintry storm since mid December.
But behind the winter wonderland the thick, fluffy, 9 inches or so of snow created, public officials were springing into action.
Randy Lauer, a Wood Village public works employee, was up early Wednesday, Jan. 11, spreading sand for about four hours on side streets not maintained by Multnomah County. He remained on call through the night, but city officials delayed sanding until the morning.
"The thinking was with the amount of snow that was coming, it would've just covered the sand I would've put down last night," he explained.
Thanks to his 2016 Ford F-150 — with what he calls "amazing" four-wheel drive — Lauer arrived at City Hall with minimal slipping and sliding.
It was no idle snow day for Lauer, who also serves as a city councilor in Troutdale.
"The thrill of snow when you're a kid leaves when you have to work in it all the time," he noted.
The snowstorm, which hit hard once the first flakes started falling around rush hour on Tuesday, covered the area with about 10 inches of snow, affecting road travel and turning East Multnomah County into a winter wonderland for a lot of residents. With most schools, public agencies and many business closed or operating on altered hours, many residents took the opportunity to venture out, primarily on foot.
Children and teens sledded down hills in Main City Park at 219 S. Main Ave., while the more adventurous ripped along the Springwater Corridor Trail on ATVs.
There were skiers and snowboarders turning the local roads into their own impromptu mountain resort, photographers braving the elements to capture the perfect picture, and families out on walks. Many made snow angels and snowmen, engaged in snowball fights and simply made the most of the wintry weather.
"All of this snow is awesome," said Peri Tharp, on her way with her son Duncan to sled in the park. "It feels like being in a cabin with a warm fire blazing."
School was canceled for Duncan, turning the week into an extension of his winter holiday break. The mother and son live near downtown, where getting around on foot isn't too difficult — a good thing, given that Tharp's car was buried under snow.
In fact, few drivers were on the roads Wednesday, and the ones who did make it first had to uncover their vehicles and then wrestle chains onto their tires to gain traction to move forward.
Even those who managed to get their vehicles free had few regular destinations from which to choose.
Multnomah County closed all clinics, libraries, the animal shelter and all other services on Wednesday. All Multnomah County Circuit Court facilities closed, along with state offices, the U.S. District Court in downtown Portland and the Oregon Zoo in Southwest Portland.
The city of Fairview closed its offices and said municipal court cases will be rescheduled. The city of Troutdale closed, along with all area school districts and many private schools.
Interstate 84 was closed between Troutdale and Hood River because of treacherous conditions.
In Wood Village, a public works emergency crew stood by to respond to calls involving burst pipes and fallen trees.
Other workers were sanding or plowing city streets, including on 244th Avenue, 239th Place and 241st Place. 238th Drive remains closed.
"We have a number of different roadways that have some pretty significant grades, and we've been sanding all of those," Wood Village City Manager Bill Peterson said on Wednesday morning. "We have one of our guys out with a backhoe, just moving snow drifts."
Road-related hassles are not the only downside of the storm, which followed last week's snow and ice event, itself a close approximation of a storm that hit the Gresham and Portland area about a week before Christmas.
"The weather is not that good for business, and it cost the city a lot of money," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis, who was trying to keep the sidewalks clear outside his Bocelli's restaurant on Main Avenue downtown. "But all the kids are having a great time right now, and it's fun to see everyone in the park sledding."
The few businesses open on Wednesday had owners and employees out front trying to make easy walkways.
"Everyone is doing a good job coming together to keep the sidewalks clear and safe," Bemis said.?
Multiple area locations for Safeway, Winco and Wal-Mart stayed open, as did many banks. The Burnside Road Les Schwab tire center went unshuttered, and was said to be connecting customers with snow chains.
Sanitation workers appeared undaunted by the snowpack, with many citizens commending Gresham Sanitary Services for continuing to pick up trash and recycling even in whiteout conditions.
Brian Cooper, owner of Cooper Tractor & Equipment on Northeast 148th Avenue, also braved the elements to arrive at work.
There was about 7 inches of snow at the company's Portland storefront, he said, and another five inches of accumulation back home in Fairview.
Both UPS and FedEx canceled pick-up service for the day, so the boss sent the rest of his employees home by 1 p.m.
Cooper Tractor serves the entire region, and most of the day's sales were south of Salem. Those orders will have to be shipped Thursday, at the earliest.
"(There's) no rest for the owners with pickup trucks," he explained.
Is the noted city councilor a fan of the wintry mix?
"Love snow. Hate ice," he replied.
The emergency department at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center was extra busy during the snowstorm, which subsided by Wednesday evening. Legacy saw a variety of weather-related and seasonal conditions, said Julie Reed, community and pubic relations officer for the hospital.
"Weather related conditions include broken bones from falls, soft tissue injury, contusions and neck and back injuries related to motor vehicle accidents. They are seeing patients who are very sick, mainly from the flu and upper respiratory illnesses."
The emergency department budgets for 140 patients per day, but Reed said volume has been averaging 160-190 people per day for several weeks of harsher-than-usual early winter weather.
"They saw 188 people on Monday, Jan. 9, and a record number of people last week, 194 people in one 24-hour cycle," she said.
Despite the challenges of getting to work, "the emergency department is fully operational," she said.
Most of the doctors, nurses, technicians and other staff made it in to work. Some stayed overnight Tuesday and Wednesday at the hospital to make sure it was staffed. "They are having some challenges with staffing because some staff can't get to work due to snow and dangerous roads, but they are coping and powering through in spite of that," Reed said. "Staff that is traveling are using vehicles with traction devices that can handle the snow, some people are carpooling, and some are taking public transit."
Weather ... or not
Hunkered down at home, Steve Solcz, who grew up in New York and New Jersey and is now retired, loves the snowy environment.
"We are absolutely enjoying the weather," he said. "But it isn't like we have someplace we have to be. It is a bit easier for us retired people. This isn't a big snowstorm for us."
Solcz, who spent Wednesday shovelving off his Gresham driveway and watching the confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet members, was supposed to be at his regular volunteer job, manning the information desk at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. A phone call from the volunteer coordinator changed his plans, however.
"It is beautiful to look around at the snow," he said, noting he enjoys watching the children enjoy themselves and tries to take the disruptive weather in stride. "It depends on what you make of it."
At the higher-elevation communities of Corbett and Springdale, conditions were a little dicier than in the Gresham lowlands, but residents were rolling with the punches.
Corbett resident Victoria Purvine reported by email that she is fine with the fluff.
"I don't mind the stuff, really," she said. "We have a plow, four-wheel drive and chains. If we need to get out, we can."
She and her fellow Corbett residents are used to winter weather events.
"We're also up high enough that this is not an uncommon thing for us," Purvine said.
Around town, folks in search of coffee, or perhaps something more spirited, turned to Facebook, trying to find out which businesses had stayed open despite the cold.
One social media user bemoaned that NW Compassion Medical Center — a medical marijuana dispensary in Wood Village — was closed. She went on to report that the adjacent Fabulicious Cupcakes store also was locked up tight.
Crowds sipped toasty drinks inside Cafe Delirium in downtown Gresham, while others suddenly finding themselves with time on their hands relaxed across Main Avenue at M&M Restaurant and Lounge.
The National Weather Service forecast indicates snow is over — for the next week or so, at least — with sunny skies and highs at or around the freezing level of 32, rising to close to 40 by Sunday. Rain and temperatures in the low 50s are forecast for next week.