EUGENE, Ore. – Two years ago, a massive snowstorm left parts of the Willamette Valley buried under almost two feet of snow. The biggest snowstorm to hit the valley in 50 years would cripple transportation and leave roads impassable for several days.
“I got into Eugene and there were branches broken down all over the place," said Sharon Hosick, who was driving from Medford to Oregon City for the birth of her granddaughter.
“The car was sliding; the snow was probably two feet thick. I was just trying to stay on the road so my car was sliding and there were ditches on both sides of me," she said. "It took me ten hours to get up to Oregon city. I’m going to cry. Missed the birth.”
Trees were no match for the weight of the snow, falling on homes, cars, and cutting off power to thousands.
“Cell phones weren’t working; the landlines weren’t working," said Jenifer Wilde-McMurtrie, who was without power in Elkton for 18 days.
This storm has the perfect recipe to be disastrous, according to Meteorologist Colby Neuman of the National Weather Service office in Portland.
“We had cold air coming in from Canada and it dropped into the Pacific Northwest. It pushed all the way south into the Willamette Valley and that’s just where it basically ended up stalling out," Neuman said.
The forecast initially called for rain, but a front actually stalled out between Douglas and Lane County. This low-pressure system created heavy precipitation. Since precipitation is a cooling process, the rain cooled the atmosphere just enough to lower the snow level from around 2,000 feet to the valley floor.
“We had steady enough precipitation that was falling between two to three thousand feet that it persisted long enough and cooled it down from the top down and turned it over to snow,” Neuman said.
The last major snowstorm to impact the valley was in January 1969 when 23.9" of snow fell in Eugene.