A White Christmas in The Grove

Snow blanketed the region just in time to frost the southern Willamette Valley in a “White Christmas” last weekend, with residents reporting anywhere from a few inches to a foot of snow in Cottage Grove and the surrounding areas.

Roads began accumulating snow on Christmas Day and by Monday several area businesses had temporarily closed due to employees unable to make it to work.

Some residents in the Dorena and London areas reported losing electricity this week as well, though no prolonged outages have been reported as of The Sentinel’s press deadline on Tuesday (Dec. 28).

Electricity company Pacific Power has stated it is aware of scattered outages around the state caused by the winter storms and reminds the public to always treat downed power lines as live and dangerous.

Meanwhile, the City of Eugene declared an ice/snow emergency on Dec. 26, meaning all vehicles were required to be removed from designated emergency routes. The emergency prohibits parking along streets on these routes, which are typically used as collectors, arterials and bus routes.

Interstate 5 continued to see traffic, though roads were slick. At times, vehicles were at a standstill and there were sporadic reports  of vehicle spin-outs and accidents.

The last of the snow is predicted to fall tomorrow (Dec. 31) and will be followed by an extended period of rain showers starting late in the day on Sunday.

In response to the forecast of snowfall last week, City of Cottage Grove staff prepared equipment and staff in case of any major events.

On Sunday morning, the city started by clearing pathways for the hospital and fire department and major roadways. On Monday, streets were sanded and entrances to City Hall and the Community Center were cleared.

The Row River Trail from Main Street to Walmart has also been plowed.

Though major streets have been cleared, packed snow and ice remain in many places. 

“Our snow plan is to just make sure that the main arterial roads are hit and passable and to try to hit the slick spots,” said Public Works and Development Director Faye Stewart.

Memories of the 2019 snowstorm, which caused long periods of power outages, extensive damage and states of emergency throughout the state, are still fresh and Stewart said city staff were prepared with both equipment and employee strategies.

“We wanted to be prepared and ready to go. Folks were on standby,” said Stewart. “One of the things that we learned from the 2019 storm is that we need to make sure that our employee resource is available and we don’t bring everybody in.”

However, unlike 2019’s extreme tree devastation, the city only had to remove one fallen tree from a road this week.

City Hall and the Community Center will be open for people who need warmth during the day. The library is closed until January 3.

Meanwhile, the Community Sharing Warming Shelter has been activated every night since Christmas Eve, hitting its highest traffic point with 11 people showing up to use the facility on Christmas.

The site changed its policy this season to activate when temperatures fall to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below at night, up from its previous threshold of 29 degrees.

Temperatures this week have dipped as low as 23 degrees at night.

Community Sharing Executive Director Mike Fleck said the site has been able to open each night despite working with a skeleton crew.

“It’s been a challenge over Christmas for sure,” he said on Monday. “We’ve been running with just two of our employees, who have just been rock stars that worked every time we’ve operated this set of days.”

Volunteers have also been showing up to the site to serve shifts.

Though forecasts show a likely need for the shelter to activate every night until Sunday (Jan. 2), Fleck said he was confident the shelter can muster the head count it needs to keep it operating. Still, he said he would be happy to accept volunteers.

“We’ll take as little or as much as folks want to do,” he said. “There’s a lot of work and we could always use more (people) for sure.”

The nonprofit will also issue notices requesting volunteers if the need arises.

If interested in volunteering, email [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.

For those intending to travel, Oregon State Police have reported that the snow is causing a significant number of crashes and that those who don’t have to travel should stay home while there is snow or ice on the road.

If necessary to travel, however, the agency recommends getting prepared by checking conditions ahead of time, informing someone of the travel route and intended arrival time, stocking up on emergency provisions, and driving cautiously.

Get up-to-date road conditions from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck website at www.tripcheck.com.

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