Lake Oswego may have dodged the worst of a weekend storm, but Mother Nature apparently wasn't quite done with the city
Maybe they were only kidding when they described it as a glancing blow. Or maybe Mother Nature was listening closely to Lake Oswego's first responders describe the weekend's winter storm as uneventful and thought she'd have the last laugh.
Either way, Monday's slow-but-steady thaw turned into a real whopper on Tuesday night, paralyzing the city under as much as nine inches of snow that was likely to stick around until the weekend.
Big, wet flakes started falling in the middle of the evening commute, causing gridlock on area freeways and making most neighborhood roads impassable. The weight of the snow brought down trees throughout the area and knocked out power overnight to thousands of homes and businesses, including more than 3,000 PGE customers on both sides of Oswego Lake.
"There were so many hazards around town that firefighters and police officers could only mark the hazard with caution tape and then move on to the next hazard," Assistant Fire Chief David Morris said. "In fact, so many trees were falling across roads that it was difficult to get to a 911 call without stopping first to remove the tree blocking their route to the emergency."
By 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Lake Oswego School District officials had already made the call to cancel classes and activities on Wednesday. Private schools, area colleges and many businesses followed suit before dawn, as did city officials in Lake Oswego, Sherwood, Tualatin, West Linn and Wilsonville. (The LOSD also canceled classes for Thursday.) Bus service in and out of Lake Oswego via Trimet's Line 78 was canceled before 7 a.m.
Snow was expected to continue to fall throughout the day Wednesday before giving way to sunshine for the rest of the week. Forecasters at the National Weather Service said parts of the metro area could see as much as a foot of snow before all was said and done..
And the worst part: Temperatures are expected to stay below freezing until Saturday, which means most of the snow that fell this week is likely to stick around for a while.
Just a prelude
The midweek storm was a powerful reminder of just how lucky Lake Oswego was over the weekend, when Mother Nature kept the jokes to herself and turned the city into more of a winter wonderland than a wintry mess.
"This latest event was cold, wet and generally miserable to be out in," Morris told The Review on Monday. "But as a result, most people just stayed home and played it safe."
That was good news for local first responders, who had braced for yet another round of snow, ice and bitter cold. Events and activities throughout the metro area were canceled in advance of what forecasters predicted would be a nasty weekend storm, and conditions in some parts of the region did indeed turn treacherous.
But for the most part, Lake Oswego seemed to have dodged the worst of it. Morris said overall call volume increased over the weekend, with some storm-related incidents reported, "but we had very few that proved to be too darn exciting."
Lake Oswego Police Capt. Dale Jorgensen agreed.
"It was pretty much a non-event when it came to traffic issues," Jorgensen said. "Looks like most people heeded the warnings and stayed in."
Police and firefighters did respond to several reports of frozen pipes that had burst, Morris said, and to reports of trees down across Boones Ferry Road and other thoroughfares. One huge Douglas fir crashed onto a home on Black Forest Court just after 6 a.m. on Sunday; the lights stayed on and no one was hurt, Morris said, but damage to the home was extensive — and cleanup efforts had to wait until Monday, because workers said the roads were still too icy on Sunday to safely get a crane to the site.
On Sunday night, firefighters were called to the scene of a chimney fire that caused extensive damage to an apartment at 1 Jefferson Parkway. When they arrived just before 6 p.m., they found that flames had extended from a middle unit into the attic.
Morris said that while crews used a 105-foot ladder truck to gain access to the roof, other firefighters attacked the blaze from an exterior deck. Once inside, firefighters got into the attic through a bedroom ceiling, Morris said, and the fire was quickly extinguished. There were no injuries to occupants or firefighters, he said; the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.
"We had many calls that would have occurred regardless of the weather," Morris said, "But we had staffed an extra crew to help with the increased workload. That ended up being a great move, because we were able to spread the call volume out with additional resources. We did not have anyone with an emergency who had to wait due to us being overwhelmed with calls."
An early warning
Officials may actually have prevented some emergencies from happening at all with a preemptive warning they issued on Saturday, urging people to stay off the bays and canals around Oswego Lake. For the first time in recent memory, the waterways were coated with a sheet of ice, creating the potential for tragedy.
Morris told The Review that the ice may have looked strong enough to hold a person's weight, but that it could have given away unexpectedly as people moved around. Ice thickness can vary greatly in a very short distance, he said, due to depths, currents and objects in and around the water.
"Treat all ice as thin ice," Morris warned residents, adding that "we just do not have any areas that would be considered a safe thickness to walk on."
Morris said that both people and animals were at danger of falling through the ice and that hypothermia could very quickly overcome anyone who fell into the water.
"That's why people should not try to rescue anyone who has fallen through the ice," Morris said. Instead, they should call 911 and wait for firefighters — who have specialized equipment and training to make ice rescues — to arrive.
"It is very dangerous to rescue one victim," Morris said. "When we have to deal with other people falling through the ice trying to reach a victim, it makes our job much more complicated and dangerous."
Speaking of dangerous, Saturday's wintry weather did leave its mark on Lake Oswego's roads. By 6 p.m., several streets had become impassable and were closed, including:
— Overlook Drive at Westview Drive and all the way to Hillside Drive;
— Westridge Drive at Bryant Road;
— Botticelli Street from Melrose Street to El Greco Street;
— Twin Fir Road from Brookside Road to Edgemont Road;
— Knaus Road from Boones Ferry Road to Thoma Road; and
— E Avenue from State Street to First Street.
Continuing icy conditions on nighborhood roads prompted the Lake Oswego School District and Our Lady of the Lake School to cancel classes on Monday. City Hall and other municipal facilities delayed their opening by a couple of hours. But for the most part, a steady rain and a slow thaw started to return the city to normal by midday.
And then, well, it turns out that "normal" only lasted about a day.