T he snowiest February in at least a couple of decades.
A printing press that suffered the mechanical version of a massive heart attack.
A section of freeway prone to prolonged closures (see: snowiest February).
It’s a litany, but one of facts, not excuses.
And it’s the confluence of these unfortunate circumstances that over the past month has made it difficult, and on some days impossible, for the Baker City Herald and The Observer to bring our publications to your home with the punctuality to which you, our subscribers, have been accustomed.
But we believe the worst, as the saying goes, is over.
This Monday, for instance, your papers were in the hands of our carriers about the same time as usual — around 12:45 p.m. for The Observer, and about 45 minutes later for the Herald, which has to travel an extra 42 miles of Interstate 84.
And although we’d never tempt Mother Nature by suggesting the Blue Mountains have seen their final blizzard of the season, barring future freeway closures, we’re confident that Monday’s schedule will once again be the standard.
The challenge that was February actually started a few days earlier, when the 53-year-old printing press at The Observer burned out its motor on Jan. 28.
Because repairing the press was not financially feasible — an offset printing press is considerably more complicated than, say, a copy machine — we had to contract with the East Oregonian in Pendleton to start printing The Observer and the Herald.
This adds about 50 miles to the journey your paper makes each day before you sit down to read it. (Possibly following the latest bout of shoveling snow.)
To compensate for the longer commute, both newspapers have moved up their deadlines by 30 to 45 minutes.
This is problematic.
Most notably, the earlier deadline gives our news staffs less time to gather information and interview sources and finish page layout each morning before we send them to the printer.
But we decided that relatively minor sacrifice was justified to make the transition to our new printing schedule as seamless as possible for you, our readers.
The weather, needless to say, cares not a whit for our deadlines.
And just as we were adjusting to our new regimen to ensure The Observer and the Herald returned from Pendleton in time for our regular afternoon delivery, the benign winter turned malignant.
Freeway closures were the biggest culprit in our struggles to deliver during February.
On several days the papers arrived so late that, rather than require our carriers to try to distribute papers after dark, and in nasty weather, we allowed them to deliver the next morning.
On one day a freeway closure made it impossible to drive copies of the Herald to Baker City until the day after publication.
The weather improved last week but both The Observer and the Herald arrived late on Friday due to a mechanical problem at the press in Pendleton.
Machines break, of course.
But press failures that significantly delay our papers are rare.
And, notwithstanding our recently ended (and much maligned) February, so are month-long bouts of severe weather.
Which is to say, Monday was a typical day.
And after a month of travails, we expect the return to normalcy was as welcome to you as it was to us.