Thursday, April 17, 2014

Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868

SNOWPOCALYPSE

Polk County still digging out from winter blast

Getting around was a challenge for pedestrians and vehicles at the corner of Highway 99W and Main Street in Monmouth.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Getting around was a challenge for pedestrians and vehicles at the corner of Highway 99W and Main Street in Monmouth.

February 11, 2014

POLK COUNTY — Melting snow, what a welcome sight!

After three separate storms brought travel-paralyzing snow and freezing rain over four days, Monday we welcomed “The Big Thaw” — and not a minute too soon.

Starting Thursday night dangerous weather conditions forced area schools to cancel classes and postpone sporting events, many area activities were cancelled, and even city halls chose to close early — or in Dallas’ case on Friday, not open at all.

Nick Engelfried shovels snow from the sidewalk in front of Capitol Auto West Valley in Dallas on Friday.

Photo by Lukas Eggen

Nick Engelfried shovels snow from the sidewalk in front of Capitol Auto West Valley in Dallas on Friday.

The Dallas, Monmouth and Independence areas reported about a foot of snow overall, then a light glazing of freezing rain. Precipitation turned to rain late Saturday or Sunday, depending on the area.

Dallas Police Chief Tom Simpson, who has worked for the city for 27 years, said he doesn’t remember the last time all city facilities were shut down due to weather.

“We've gone to a skeleton crew a few times due to some employees living in areas where they couldn't get in,” he said, but Simpson didn’t recall another time when all but essential employees were told to stay home.

Schools cancelled classes Friday and remained closed Monday, making for a four-day weekend for Polk County students. Maintenance crews in Dallas used Monday to clear school parking lots of snow and slush to prepare for Tuesday’s on-time start.

City of Dallas crews were busy plowing and removing snow from downtown streets Monday morning after about 12 inches of snow fell in the area.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

City of Dallas crews were busy plowing and removing snow from downtown streets Monday morning after about 12 inches of snow fell in the area.

In Monmouth, most streets and parking lots remained unplowed, including the Monmouth Police parking lot, where officers had to push employees’ cars to get them out.

City Manager Scott McClure said Monmouth doesn’t own a plow. The city used to own a small blade that attached to a pickup truck, but sold it years ago. The city doesn’t have the equipment or staff to plow streets.

“This happens so rarely, stay home,” he said.

Emergency crews, mostly in the cities, were busy responding to accidents, though there were a few on county roads as well, between Thursday and Sunday. In all, Polk County Sheriff’s deputies responded to 24 calls for assistance during the storm, with the most – 14 – on Friday. In Dallas, there were four crashes and numerous calls for assistance – mainly people stuck in the snow during the storms. None were serious accidents. Independence reported three weather-related accidents; Monmouth had just two.

This anonymous volunteer jumped right in with shovel in hand to dig snow and help get a car unstuck in Independence on Friday morning.

Hannah Kelly/for the Itemizer-Observer

This anonymous volunteer jumped right in with shovel in hand to dig snow and help get a car unstuck in Independence on Friday morning.

Polk County Fire District No. 1 reported seven accidents with one minor injury.

“People did pretty good this time,” said Jerry Mott, Dallas’ acting deputy chief.

Local businesses didn’t go unscathed by the weather.

Randall Houser, the manager at Dallas Super Market in downtown Dallas, said the store was a madhouse beginning Friday and continuing through Saturday.

“We had a lot of walk-in customers,” he said. “We even had a guy come in in a big tractor.”

Houser said it’s pretty typical for the store to be busy during bad weather. But waves of people stocking up on groceries this time left several holes on the shelves in the store, which received a shipment just before the snow started to fall on Thursday.

Western Oregon University’s campus was nearly deserted as snow accumulated. Classes at WOU and area K-12 schools were closed Friday and Monday.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Western Oregon University’s campus was nearly deserted as snow accumulated. Classes at WOU and area K-12 schools were closed Friday and Monday.

One thing Houser didn’t see was a lot of cars.

“There’s people cross-country skiing here,” he said. “We just had people coming out of the woodwork.”