- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2016

LA GRANDE, Ore. (AP) - Colleen MacLeod received an unwelcome surprise Tuesday when she tried to do something routine - walk out the back door of her Summerville home.

MacLeod could barely budge the door because it was blocked by drifting snow, so she went out her front door instead.

There, she found the road she lives on so clogged by snow she could not drive on it, leaving her unable to make it to La Grande to open the business - Joe Beans - she runs with her husband, Al. Tuesday marked the first time in six years weather has kept the couple from opening the downtown coffee shop and deli.

“We had a snow day,” Colleen MacLeod said.

She said she regretted not being able to open because it means lost revenue.

“Business is business,” she said.

Tuesday was also a snow day for many others in Union and Wallowa counties who could not travel or chose not to because of heavy overnight snowfall. The bad weather forced the closure of Interstate 84 between Ontario and Pendleton for much of the day. Portions of I-84 began closing at 3 a.m. and the full closure was complete by 6:30 a.m.

The interstate reopened at about 2 p.m.

Peter Murphy, a public information officer for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said ice and blowing forced the closure.

“It was all weather related,” Murphy said.

An avalanche forced the closure of Highway 204 between Elgin and Weston for several hours beginning at 8 a.m. The avalanche was not major.

“You could see snow plows on the other side,” Murphy said.

Highway 237 between Union and North Powder was also closed for several hours Tuesday because of the weather.

None of the roads were needed for school buses since all public schools in Union and Wallowa counties were closed Tuesday. Half of them were closed because of the bad weather, with the rest on holiday break. Private schools closed due to bad weather included Grande Ronde Academy of La Grande.

Snow conditions were perhaps worst in the Summerville area because of blowing snow. MacLeod noted that after clearing her driveway it would be filled back in with snow an hour later.

Sunny Tabino, who lives on Sanderson Road near Summerville, said she had not seen any branches fall or trees knocked over by the snow.

Sheri Rogers, the owner of the Summerville Store and Tavern, said the snow was having an impact on her business because it was keeping people off the road.

“It is pretty quiet,” Rogers said.

She said two of her employees could not make the drive to work. One of the employees lives in Elgin and the other on a nearby hill.

“I could make it in because I live just a quarter-mile away,” said Rogers, who is also the Summerville mayor.

Rogers said the snow conditions are bringing out the best in the Summerville community. For example, a farmer plowed the parking lot of her store Tuesday morning. She said it is common for farmers to do things like that because many have snow removal equipment they use in caring for their livestock.

“They are very generous in making it available,” Rogers said.

Union County public works crews have been busy working to keep roads open in the Summerville area and throughout the county. Crews are beginning their days at 4 a.m.

“A lot are working 12- to 13-hour days,” said Union County Public Works Director Doug Wright.

He said the biggest challenge his crews face is staying ahead of blowing and drifting snow, something that was particularly difficult Monday morning, he said, when heavy winds rocked the Grande Ronde Valley.

The windstorm left destruction in its wake, seriously damaging a fifth wheeler at the Grande Hot Springs RV Resort at Hot Lake, and leaving its mark on three commercial signs along Island Avenue.

The high winds also knocked a 40-foot long triple-axle travel trailer onto its side at Grande Hot Springs. Fortunately, nobody was in the travel trailer at the time, said Tamarah Rysavy, who owns the RV park with her husband, Michael.

“I found it laying on its side in water,” said Rysavy, adding the travel trailer sustained significant damage.

In La Grande, the storm damaged tall display signs at the La Grande Rendezvous RV Resort, the Gem Stop and McDonald’s.

Rendezvous RV park’s sign was damaged by winds which knocked it off its pole and left it hanging, attached by metal. People with cars parked in the vicinity were asked to move as a precaution, said Leanne Gibson, who co-manages the RV park.

At McDonald’s, pieces of the sign were blown all around the restaurant’s parking lot. David Putnam, a shift manager, said he was shocked to see it when he arrived at work.

“Plastic was everywhere,” he said.


Information from: The (La Grande) Observer, https://www.lagrandeobserver.com/

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