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Winter may be just around the corner


The Grande Ronde and Wallowa valleys may receive light amounts of snow this weekend.

The National Weather Service in Pendleton is forecasting there is a strong chance La Grande and Enterprise will receive rain and snow showers Saturday and Sunday. There is a 40 percent chance of rain and snow showers in La Grande Saturday evening through Sunday and a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of rain or snow showers in Enterprise during the same time, according to Ann Adams, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pendleton.

Should there be snow showers, the snowfall could be measurable 0.1 inches or more, according to the Weather Service.

The snow level will be about 4,000 feet during the weekend, Adams said. On Monday, conditions will be dry.

“Our weather system will be moving out,” Adams said.

The mountains and higher elevation sites in Union County will begin receiving showers of rain and possibly snow on Thursday, Adams said. The portions of Union County with the best chance of receiving snow during this time will be higher elevations in the southwest.

Friday night and Saturday morning the area surrounding the Grande Ronde Valley is expected to receive snow.

“If you are traveling into or out of the Grande Ronde Valley, you will likely run into snow,” Adams said.

The earliest La Grande has received measurable snow in the fall was Oct. 25, 1970, according to the National Weather Service. The average date in La Grande for its first measurable autumn snow is Nov. 18.

National Weather Service records for the town of Wallowa indicate that the earliest it has received measurable snow in the late summer-fall period was Sept. 11, 1921. The same records indicate that the average date Wallowa receives its first snow is Nov. 8.

Regardless of whether there is snow this weekend, drivers can expect winter-like driving conditions. Roads can be especially slippery during the first days of inclement weather after a dry period, according to Oregon Department of Transportation spokesperson Tom Strandberg, because water pushes out oil the pavement has absorbed.

“There will be oil spots that will make the road slicker,” Strandberg said.

Motorists also need to be particularly wary of drivers who are traveling too fast for conditions.

“Drivers are not in a winter mindset yet,” Strandberg said.

The likelihood of crashes may be greater as a result, so drivers should be prepared for possible traffic delays caused by accidents. This means they should have blankets, water and food in the car, Strandberg said.

When winter weather is possible, travelers are also encouraged to have snow tires or carry chains.

Snowfall is not expected to be heavy, but if it is, ODOT crews will be plowing roadways with the new snowplows and remodeled dual-wing plows. Strandberg stressed that these plows will take up the entire roadway when operating, so motorists should not try to pass them. It is safest to drive behind a snowplow because this road is in much better condition than the road ahead of it.

He urged motorists to be patient, reminding drivers that snowplows “will pull over periodically to let traffic pass.”