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Information technology worker Jon Norris heads to his job at Eastern Oregon University amid a temperature of 2 degrees Thursday morning. Forecasters predict mercury will dip below zero Saturday night. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Cold snap to continue through weekend in Grande Ronde Valley as workers bear elements, meteorologists warn against wind chill
While Old Man Winter came knocking at Oregon’s door — and many areas in other parts of the U.S. — business continued as usual in the valley.
Construction work on a new office for the Oregon State Police in the La Grande Business Park kept on, gas pump attendees kept pumping and the U.S. Postal Service stayed true to its old motto to deliver the mail.
“We’ve been slowed down a little but not stopped,” said Richard Trickey, owner and general contractor of the building OSP will soon lease for its new office. “Actually most of my crew is inside.”
While there is plenty of work to do inside the building, there is still roof work to be done. Workers cannot get on the roof until it has thawed, which this week hasn’t been until about 10 a.m.
Trickey said the biggest factor when the temperatures are so low is just making sure workers get breaks and have enough layers on.
“An hour outside is all you want someone out in these temperatures,” he said.
For those pumping gas in the rush hour before work, those breaks can be hard to come by until the rush tapers off.
“If you prepare for it, it’s not that bad,” said Alisha Crane, a gas attendant at the Shell on Gekeler Lane.
Her preparation includes long johns, wool socks and multiple layers — plus gloves. The wind is what makes it tough for Crane, who has been pumping gas since the summer.
“The wind makes a big difference. Right now, it’s a nice day,” Crane said Thursday afternoon when winds were calm. “We’re not a really super busy gas station, so I get to go in and out.”
Others, though, face the elements all day.
USPS mail carrier Angelica Boyer said her thoughts on her first winter delivering mail always leads to one thing.
“Basically, keep moving,” she said. “It’s pretty crazy trying to keep my hands warm and trying to keep mail going.”
Boyer, too, depends on multiple layers to keep warm. But those don’t protect against icy sidewalks.
“You’ve got to have good balance,” Boyer says.
Unfortunately, for those who must bear the elements, the arctic air isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“It’s going to be darn cold,” said Ken Clark, a meteorologist with Accuweather. “It’s a very extended period of cold weather.”
A big chunk of the U.S. is getting a blast of wintry weather. Some areas are experiencing frigid temperatures. Some are seeing snow and ice. The conditions are making travel difficult and prompting the cancellation of flights, holiday festivities and football games. Even one outdoor ice rink in cold-accustomed South Dakota is shutting down.
Around Oregon, the cold proved too much for a public outdoor pool in Klamath Falls. Officials in the city known for heating businesses, homes and sidewalks with geothermal resources closed the pool until next week.
The pool that’s heated with geothermal resources is normally around 80 degrees and sometimes closes in cold weather, but that’s usually in January. The pool temperature had fallen to about 75, low enough to put users at risk, said John Bellon, superintendent of parks maintenance and operations.
It was cold in the area east of the Cascade Range on Wednesday, about 7 above in the city and setting a record low for the day at nearby Crater Lake: minus 2.
Clark said even colder air will arrive this weekend leaving high temperatures in the mid-teens. Lows could drop to minus 5, even in La Grande, Clark said. The low temperatures, along with some wind, prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Wind Chill Warning through Sunday morning.
“It doesn’t take much wind to cause the potential for hypothermia,” Clark said. “If you’re going to be outside for any length of time make sure you’re bundled up.”
The wind chills may also present dangers for frost bite, the meteorologist said.
Calling the cold air mass “exceptional,” Clark said Grande Ronde Valley residents should make sure they stay warm but also should check on others, especially the young and the elderly.
“Check on your neighbors, make sure they have heat,” he said.