WALLOWA COUNTY HIT WITH BIG WINDS

November 29, 2001 12:00 am

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE Winterlike weather arrived with gusto Wednesday, but Wallowa County took the first snowstorm of the season in stride.

The temperature early Wednesday morning dipped to 12 degrees before rising to 36 by 4:30 p.m. Before the storm subsided, 14 inches of snow had been dumped on some parts of the county, and many trees had sustained severe damage or been toppled or uprooted. Some trees 30 inches in diameter were snapped off 10 to 12 feet above the ground, officials said.

Winds estimated at 70 mph to 80 mph uprooted trees, blowing snow severely limited driving visibility. The storm snapped power lines and briefly blocked roads before people pitched in to clear the trees from the roads. Evergreens crashed into one cabin at Wallowa Lake.

Vehicles slid off slick roadways, but no injuries were reported.

The lower valley around Wallowa was not as hard hit as the upper part of the county, where there was near zero visibility on Sheep Creek Hill, Prairie Creek and Imnaha Highway, virtually shutting them down. Vehicles traveling the Imnaha Highway out of Joseph could go only 5 mph.

Police were anticipating accidents today due to slick roads and the accumulation of snow in some areas.

Two inches of snow fell Wednesday morning, but by the end of the day, 14 inches had fallen in the area from Flora to Troy.

Most roads in the Wallowa Valley remained open because there was little snow on them. The exception was Highway 3 north of Enterprise, where snow drifts forced road closures intermittently throughout Wednesday.

Trees wreaked havoc at Wallowa Lake Wednesday. One tree took down the Power House Road power lines near the Flying Arrow Resort at about 10 a.m., knocking out power for the rest of Wednesday in most of the homes at the lake. At 11:30 a.m. a large red fir crashed across the same road near the Wallowa Lake General Store. That cut off telephone service until 4 p.m. Electricity at the lake was restored at 9 p.m.

A pine tree fell into a cabin on River Road in the same vicinity. Trees were reported blown down on Wallowa Mountain Loop Road near Sheep Creek Hill.

Trees were reported down on Highway 82 a mile north of Joseph, on Hurricane Creek Road and on Bicentennial Lane at Dobbin Road, where a felled tree was blown 30 feet into the roadway.

About 3 p.m., Oregon State Police Trooper Greg Retherford came across a cottonwood blocking both lanes of Highway 82 a mile north of Joseph, the OSP reported. A log truck driver produced a chain saw and he and Retherford and another volunteer cleared the road in minutes.

Schools in Joseph and Enterprise dismissed students early Wednesday since buses had to transport some to the more remote areas of Imnaha and Flora.

As the temperatures thawed, the snow and, slick ice developed on roadways late in the day, but no accidents were reported.

The storm followed the two to three inches of snow that fell Saturday, making for a busy time at Enterprises Les Schwab Tires. Crews said it must have been a record day for putting studded tires on vehicles. By 2 p.m., they were fully booked to keep them busy well into the night. After that, customers were put on a list for today.

The storm was just a good wake-up call to be ready for winter, said Terry Holbrook of the Wallowa County Public Works Department. Were ready.