The Weather Outside Was Frightful

snowThe “snowpocalypse,” as those of us experiencing cabin fever called the freakish winter storm that held Corvallis, and surrounding communities, captive a couple of weeks back, proved to be more snowpocalyptic than anyone could have imagined. The massive snow accumulation, reportedly up to 22 inches in some areas, led to issues galore–slick roadways, a 40-50 car pile-up on I-5, school closures, a cluster fudge of stuck cars, downed tree limbs, thousands of power outages, people missing work and towards the end, some flooding.

It was just like that one movie where all the horrible end-of-the-world type stuff happened… what’s it called? Oh yeah, Love Actually.

The city’s response to the snowstorm last December seemed insufficient on every front. Sand machines froze up and available snowplows couldn’t put a dent in the ice beneath the powder. So how did the city fare against this far worse February blizzard as compared with the last one?

According to Corvallis City Manager Jim Patterson and many in the community, the answer is: surprisingly pretty well. So what made the difference this time?

“I will say our response in advance of the storm was a lot better,” Patterson said. “We were able to reach out to other partner agencies and get assistance, which really helped just in the area of snow removal from roadways.”

In December, not many of us can recall having even seen a snowplow in action, but this time around was a different story. According to Patterson, plows were in action “within an hour of the storm event, in some areas within a half an hour.”

The real problem with plowing the streets during the initial days of the storm was that the snow continued to fall. As Patterson says, a street would be plowed and 15 to 20 minutes later there would be two to three inches of fresh snow replacing what had just been removed.

All priority streets, meaning ones in route to Good Samaritan Hospital, such as 9th Street and Walnut Boulevard needed to get cleared first for emergency response situations. All others would come after those were plowed.

City workers were able to borrow three high-powered snowplows from Linn County, along with additional personnel to help clear the streets when the snow began to melt and turn to slush.

Some Corvallisites were less pleased with the city’s response to the storm this time around, though, claiming enough wasn’t done to warn local residents that streets and highways were unsafe for travel. Patterson isn’t naive to the fact that you can’t please everyone.

“The city is not the only outlet for information. There are certain things we as individuals need to do to get prepared. The city can do a lot, but we can’t do everything for everybody,” he said. One example would be the myriad weather applications one can access on their smartphone.

Another issue one resident brought up was that some of the plowing debris blocked side streets from gaining access to main streets. Patterson said the plows pushed snow to sidewalk corners at intersections, though he hadn’t heard of any blockage complaints being made to the city. He pointed out that if residents have problems in the future like that they should contact the public works department at (541) 766-6916, so they aren’t inconvenienced when they need to commute somewhere.

Patterson admitted that with each storm the city learns more about how to better approach future weather events. He also said he was encouraged by the Corvallisites who were in the community helping fellow residents move vehicles stuck in the street, providing neighbors with rides to the store, shoveling driveways and walkways and more.

“There were a lot of folks in this town showing random acts of kindness, and I’m grateful for that. It says a lot about Corvallis,” he said.

by Patrick Fancher