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Winter arrives early

Snow, frigid temperatures lead to school closure, traffic accidents throughout area

Dawn Leach, far left, and Heather Tice, second from left, try to dodge snowballs in Dallas City Park Friday morning.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Dawn Leach, far left, and Heather Tice, second from left, try to dodge snowballs in Dallas City Park Friday morning.

December 10, 2013

POLK COUNTY — Old Man Winter made his presence known throughout the region, starting with frigid temperatures last week and then dumping a light coating of snow on Friday.

In Polk County, he was a bit of a humbug, forcing postponement of annual tree lighting events and Santa visits planned in Monmouth and Independence. In Dallas, the Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce had to cancel Winterfest, slated to take place Friday night on the Polk County Courthouse lawn, due to freezing temperatures and hazardous driving conditions.

"We want people to stay warm and safe in their homes tonight," read the Winterfest cancelation announcement. "Santa will ensure our tree is lit and encourages everyone to stay tuned to other local area events to visit him."

Not content to let an untimely cold front spoil the Christmas spirit entirely, Santa and the chamber crew kept that promise. They donned antlers, elf hats and snow flake tiaras, and braved biting wind for a brief, but festive tree lighting "ceremony" of its own Friday afternoon.

Snow blanketed trees Friday morning in Dallas City Park during a brief early December snowstorm.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Snow blanketed trees Friday morning in Dallas City Park during a brief early December snowstorm.

Chelsea Pope, the chamber's executive director, said having to cancel Winterfest was heartbreaking, but seeing the tree lit on the Polk County Courthouse lawn helped.

But it wasn't all bad.

Students at local schools took advantage of school closures and delays Friday, Monday and Tuesday to enjoy the rare snow storm.

Cancelled classes Friday gave Kyle Reed of Dallas a chance to try out his sled for the first time this season.

While Kyle was sledding on "Dead Man's Hill" in Dallas City Park, his mom, Sydney Reed, and Laura Garcia, an exchange student living with the family, were "stealing snow" from the park to help build a snowman in their frontyard.

For Garcia, who is from Spain, this was only the second time she had seen snow.

"It's a little bit warmer in Spain," Sydney Reed joked.

While Falls City closed city hall early on Friday to assure all employees got home safely, there were no weather-related incidents reported.

"We have people making snow angels and snowmen in their yards, but no accidents or incidents," said City Administrator Amber Mathiesen Monday. "Other than that, there's really nothing going on here."

Polk County for the most part saw little snow accumulation Friday, but it was enough to make roads slick. Temperatures remained well below freezing until Tuesday, so what did fall stayed around.

The bank of Rickreall Creek running through Dallas was covered in a dusting of snow on Friday.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

The bank of Rickreall Creek running through Dallas was covered in a dusting of snow on Friday.

Dallas City Manager Ron Foggin said the city came through the brunt of the storm unscathed, though he had heard of a few buildings in town suffering damage to water pipes and sprinkler systems.

Slippery conditions kept road crews working long hours to clear and sand roads, and emergency crews busy responding to accidents.

Area law enforcement agencies reported a number of accidents on Polk County roads during and after Friday's snow storm.

In Dallas, most accidents were minor, people sliding into curbs, fire hydrants -- and each other.

Polk County Sheriff spokesman Dean Bender said there were 24 crashes reported Friday on county roads, again most minor. Saturday and Sunday the number tapered off significantly for a total of five over the weekend.

"There's been a lot of fender benders," he said. "On Friday we had quite a few, but every day it's been getting better and better."

Friday was the peak day for accidents in the Monmouth and Independence, too.

Kyle Reed of Dallas launches himself down a hill in Dallas City Park on Friday morning as another family enjoys a stroll through the newly fallen snow.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Kyle Reed of Dallas launches himself down a hill in Dallas City Park on Friday morning as another family enjoys a stroll through the newly fallen snow.

"It was an active day," said Yolanda Allen, Monmouth Police Department records supervisor.

The department received four reports of non-injury accidents on Friday because of the weather.

Independence also reported four non-injury accidents between Friday and Sunday.

Crash reports from Oregon State Police were not available at press time Tuesday morning.

We may have to endure the possibility of freezing fog and freezing rain before the weather returns to normal, with temperatures in the 40s and rain - remember rain? - in the forecast starting on Friday.

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